What the frack is fracking?

Three large energy companies, Shell, Bundu and Falcon have applied to explore for a natural gas, called Shale Gas, in South Africa. They want to explore tens of thousands of kilometres of land across the Karoo.

The way that they would explore for this gas is a process called Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.

So what is it? Fracking is a process that creates fractures in rock to enable the extraction of natural gas and oil from rock formations deep below the earth’s surface.  Deep boreholes are drilled and a toxic mix of, water, sand and chemicals (including diesel) is injected at extremely high pressure in order to make fractures in the rocks.

What’s the big deal? Fracking is under fierce government scrutiny in the US and has been banned by at least 160 communities in America. However the process of fracking is not regulated in South Africa and has never been used in this country before.

Fracking is a highly invasive process which could contaminate the surrounding environment, ground water and air. Billions (some reports estimate trillions) of litres of water would be used.

If the project goes ahead it could permanently damage the Karoo environment, cause catastrophic drinking water pollution and air pollution, be a health concern for humans and animals and cause general environmental degradation.

Our country is already water stressed, we do not need this highly invasive, polluting technology which will enrich the pockets of a few and contaminate our water suppliers.

On top of all of this, it would also mean hundreds of trucks visiting the site causing dust and noise pollution.

You will not be surprised to hear that Shell and Golder Associates (the company appointed by Shell to conduct its public participation process and compile its Environmental Management Programme) have publicly stated that fracking poses no risk to the environment!

GasLand is an excellent documentary about fracking in the US. It shows how people living in fracking areas are able to set the water coming out of their taps alight due to the toxic contamination of water from fracking!

Local residents, farmers and environmental groups across the country are up in arms and have formed a large opposition group called Treasure the Karoo Action Group or (TKAG).

What can I do?

You can sign their anti fracking petition here which calls for a moratorium on all on-shore exploration and exploitation of natural gas in South Africa, especially any operations involving hydraulic fracturing.

Even better, attend one of the public meetings being held across the country and voice your opposition:

Sutherland: Church Hall, Dutch Reformed Church, Piet Retief Road
Tuesday 15 March 2011 14:00 – 17:00
Beaufort-West: Rustdene Hall, 12 De Vries Street, Rustdene
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 14:00 – 17:00
Victoria-West: Town Hall, 78 Church Street, opposite the Apollo Building
Thursday 17 March 2011 10:00 – 13:00
Middelburg Eastern Cape: Grootfontein Agriculture Development Institute, Department of Agriculture, Big Lecture Room
Friday 18 March 2011 08:30 – 11:30
Cradock: Cradock Town Hall, No 1 JA Calata Street, Cradock
Friday 18 March 2011 14:30 – 17:30
Graaff-Reinet: Town Hall (big hall), Church Square, opposite Angel Park
Wednesday 23 March 2011 13:00 – 16:00
Port Elizabeth: Hume Park Caravan Park, Perrott Avenue, Humerail, Hume Park
Thursday 24 March 2011 17:00 – 20:00
Cape Town: The Sports Science Institute Cape Town, Boundary Road, Newlands (next to the WP Rugby pavilion)
Friday 25 March 2011 17:00 – 20:00

Go and watch Gasland – the documentary:

21,22,23 March
Gasland – Cape Town
Place: Labia on Orange, Cape Town
Time: Monday 21 March at 6:15pm; Tuesday 22 March at 8:30pm; Wednesday 23 March at 6:15pm
Ticket reservations: 021 424 5927

4,5,8 April
Gasland – JHB
Place: The Bioscope Independent Cinema, Johannesburg
Time: 8pm
Ticket reservations: or 087 830 0445

More information:

7 responses to “What the frack is fracking?

  1. Don’t do it. Unless you want to create lots of jobs. Cleaning up the mess.

  2. It seems that given the evidence, we should be mobilizing against the possibility of Fracking in the Karoo. It is quite clear that environmental damage is more than likely – see the doccy – but most important of all, the damage Shell has done in Nigeria is well documented, including the cover up of the damage and corruption – anyone who believes that Shell will keep their promises of repairing etc. must just do a little bit of reading about Ogoniland. The question of course is how – Facebook? Letters to the newspaper? I’ll join anything that looks like its going in the right direction – I have tried to start a Facebook group but have little idea of how to make it more public. Any helpers?? “Stop Shell Fracking”. Joan

  3. Louise Tait

    If you wish to do something and make your voice heard, attend one of the public meetings (with your placard) being held by Shell and Golder. Cape Town’s event is being held 25 March at the Sports Science Institute in Newlands at 5pm.

    Details of events in other towns can be found on the facebook group,
    Chase SHELL OIL out of the Karoo:

    (note how difficult it is to find any advertising of these ‘public’ events by the organisers themselves)

  4. Pingback: Fracking: your chance to say ‘no’ |

  5. This is wonderful blog. I love it.

  6. OMG This is what I was precisely researching for. I needed this for my work. You’ve been a big help. Adore you!

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