Confessions of a fracking defector

Confessions of a fracking defector by Julienne du Toit, June 15, 2012, Daily Maverick
JdT: Aren’t these just observations, then? There’s no fieldwork. Why is this being seen as so new? GvT: Actually, we’ve been stupid. The facts were before us all the time. Someone should have picked it up before, but I’m proud that I did. I freely admit now that I made mistakes in the past. JdT: You have publicised a study that has not been proven in the field or peer-reviewed. What is the rush? GvT: As I said in a letter to the Cape Times (in response to Professor Philip Lloyd’s questions in the same newspaper), our research is of vital importance for what is going to happen during the next two months. Government is probably going to lift the fracking moratorium in July. It takes at least nine months to get a scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. That is why we found it necessary to release our findings immediately. I am very worried because I now know that the fracking fluid will contaminate the groundwater. There is no doubt at all. … If they drill at similar rates to the US – a well-pad every 260ha, with 10 wells, even across just half of the Karoo, we could eventually have 17,300 well-pads, each with 10 wells or so. Shell’s Jan-Willem Eggink has said the well-pads will be 5km apart, with 32 wells on each well-pad. That means 3,600 well-pads with just over 115,000 wells. That’s just Shell’s wells, not Sungu Sungu, or Falcon or Bundu. If just one of these wells fails and harmful substances have been included in the fracking fluid cocktail, it will be a disaster, I can assure you. … There is no doubt that the fracking well casings will fail, sooner or later. There is proof of this. That is why I say that contamination is absolutely inevitable and it will be one of the biggest water pollution disasters in the world. South Africa is so short of water. We cannot risk this. … JdT: Since no fieldwork has been done, are there any case studies at all that prove your hypothesis? GvT: Well, that’s an interesting point because I remembered in the media a while back there was mention of a certain Andre Els who was with Soekor in the 1960s and who told of a particular incident that corresponds to what my study says. I dismissed it as rubbish at the time, but since the completion of the study I have called him and he told me what happened. Els was in charge of drilling fluids at Skietfontein farm near Aberdeen, south of Graaff-Reinet in 1967. At a depth of 4,110 metres, they lost the drilling fluid, which contained water, bentonite, chrome ligno-sulphanate and caustic soda. He told me it took a week of effort before they could plug the hole. A month and a half after that, a farmer near Klipplaat, over 30km away, called Soekor to complain that his borehole water had suddenly turned brown. There was something odd. Els was sent there, and found that the borehole water contained chrome ligno-sulphanate. It was undoubtedly the drilling fluid that had migrated across and contaminated the borehole. It seems unbelievable, but the drilling fluid had travelled more than 30km and had moved up from a depth of more than 4,000 metres in only 6 weeks. This shows how quickly contamination can move along a preferential pathway.

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