Page 50 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
P. 50

 HERITAGE and society
There are many unanswered questions related to shale gas extraction in the Karoo as a potential new source of energy, one of which relates to the impact on seismicity.
       Andrzej Kijko and Ansie Smit
The economic growth of any country is inherently linked to energy provisioning. With a growing economy, the demand for energy increases. This,
in turn, stimulates the search for new sources of energy. The situation is no different for South Africa, where the current energy sector is primarily driven by the mining of domestic coal and the importation of oil. Only a small portion of the country’s energy
is generated through natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy sources.
In the last few years, shale gas extraction by means of ‘hydraulic fracturing/fracking’ has been identified as a potential new addition to the energy sources mix, and has been incorporated in the South African Integrated Resource Plan (IRP, 2016). This has sparked intense debates among the government, academia and citizens of South Africa around concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing, similar to debates on fracking worldwide.
There are two main opposing views. A strong argument can be made in support of shale gas extraction, not only to serve as an energy source but also as a platform for job creation and desperately needed economic growth. On the other hand, valid questions are raised regarding the sustainability of the jobs created, the adequacy of the scientific and regulatory oversight of the extraction process, as well as the socioeconomic impact (the impact on the country’s scarce water resources, biodiversity and public health) of the process.
A new book, Hydraulic Fracturing in the Karoo: Critical Legal and Environmental Perspectives (JUTA, 2016) explores a broad-ranging set of questions related
to proposed hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ in the Karoo. The book is multidisciplinary, with contributors including natural scientists, social scientists and academics from the humanities, all concerned with the ways in which scientific facts and debates about fracking have been framed and given meaning.
Professor Andrzej Kijko and Ansie Smit from the Natural Hazard Centre at UP contributed the chapter on Hydraulic fracturing, wastewater pumping and seismicity, with colleagues from the Universities
of Cape Town and the Free State – Professor Jan Glazewski, Dr Beth Kahle and Surina Esterhuyse. Kijko and Smit’s focus is on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing activities and seismicity. As seen globally, this relationship is not uniform across all geological settings, suggesting that the associated hazards and risks (damages) are not identical for
all regions. The chapter presents Oklahoma as a case study and describes historical and present-day seismicity in South Africa. Within the Karoo, many important questions related to the sensitivity of
the injection of fluids into the subsurface currently remain unanswered.
The underlying theme of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Karoo: Critical Legal and Environmental Perspectives is one of caution, which this chapter addresses for seismicity-related risks of hydraulic fracturing. The book also emphasises the need for collaboration between the natural and social sciences, and
the responsibilities of those charged with the implementation and governance of the fracking enterprise, if South Africa hopes to manage fracking effectively at all.
48 | UP Research Review 2016

   48   49   50   51   52