Pro-fracking Prof does U-turn

Pro-fracking Prof does U-turn by Melanie Gosling, June 1 2012, Cape Times
One of SA’s leading geohydrologists supported fracking for gas in the Karoo and said it posed no problem for underground water. Now Professor Gerrit van Tonder, of the University of the Free State, has warned that his new research shows that there is a high risk that fracking in the Karoo could lead to one of the biggest water pollution problems in the world. … Essentially they have established “one hundred percent” that the underground water in the Karoo basin flows upwards. They have also established that because of the Karoo’s unique geology, there are vast numbers of natural “pathways” along which the water can flow upwards. And with the upward flow, the water will carry the toxic cocktail of fracking chemicals up to the freshwater underground aquifers nearer the surface. This is the water that most of the Karoo towns and farmers depend on. … But as well as these natural pathways, there will also be thousands of new artificial pathways created by each fracking borehole. Once they come to the end of their 20-year lifespan, each borehole will provide a conduit to transport the cocktail of hazardous chemicals used in the fracking process, at very deep levels underground, upwards. This contaminated water could take several years to reach the freshwater aquifers – or it could take only days. “Once polluted, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clean up the pollution. Given enough time, the effects that fracking chemicals will have on the environment will be detrimental,” Van Tonder said. He said this had already happened with fracking in Pennsylvania, in the Marcellus shales, where the underground water also flowed upwards. … Van Tonder said he strongly recommended that before any licences were handed out by the government to allow fracking, all companies must disclose what kind of fracking chemicals they would use and in what volumes. “There is the add problem that these chemicals are used at great depth, where there is high pressure and high temperature. These factors will cause the chemicals to change and create other chemicals – but we don’t know what they will change into because the companies do not disclose what chemicals they are using,” … Although fracking companies point out that chemicals make up only around 0.5 percent to 2 percent of the total volume of water used, experts say because many millions of litres of water are used, the amount of chemicals is large. For example in the US, a four-million gallon (15 million litre) operation could use 80 to 330 tons of chemicals.

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.