WITH all eyes on the Karoo, environmental lobbyists have learnt with surprise about a proposed fracking project by PetroSA in new gas wells about 100km south of Mossel Bay.
With the Environmental Authorisation already granted to PetroSA for Project Ikhwezi, a consultation company has been appointed to revise and amend the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to allow for offshore well stimulation with hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking).
Petro SA communication manager Thabo Mabaso said public participation was initiated last month by the consultation company, Worley Parsons, and all environmental concerns would be addressed by the revised EIA.
In the meantime Project Ikhwezi, which entails tapping into gas reserves off the south coast of South Africa, has already commenced, with the drilling of the first production well at its target depth.
The extraction of gas for the first two wells will be via traditional extraction methods, whereas fracking is proposed for the last three wells to enhance the productivity of the extraction of the gas, Mabaso said.
"PetroSA is conducting a study into the feasibility of hydraulically stimulating the last three wells and has not made a final investment decision," Mabaso said.
Fracking would allow for more gas to be produced from the wells, which would extend the lifetime of the Mossel Bay GTL plant.
Other than the revision of the EIA, it is not clear if additional licencing will be required for fracking to commence under the seabed.
Department of Mineral Resources deputy director-general Mosa Mabuza said the national inter- departmental task team on fracking was still in consultation and it was premature to comment on the licensing of fracking – whether it be in the Karoo or Mossel Bay.
Spokesman for social media lobby group Fractual Ian Perrin said they had been in contact with a number of groups in Mossel Bay to voice their concerns with the EIA, and possibly form an opposition group.
"National regulations do not properly cover fracking, whether onshore or offshore. In our response to Worley Parsons we emphasise this and suggest both tougher regulation and supervision be required before licences can be granted. Regulations should also exist that publish the contents of any fracking fluids used," he said.
Jeanie le Roux, of Karoo action group Treasure, said he was waiting for information from Worley Parsons before "determining our role in the process and the project".