From: Ruona Agbroko, Reuters, JOHANNESBURG
Published April 8, 2011 07:16 AM

Fracking concern in South Africa?

South Africa's Karoo, a vast arid wilderness, may contain gas reserves that could solve the country's energy problems -- but only through an extraction process called fracking that has greens seeing red.


The sprawling and ecologically sensitive region, home to rare species such as the mountain zebra and riverine rabbit, may hold vast deposits of natural gas in shale rock deep underground.

Once unobtainable, such reserves can now be exploited with new techniques and could serve as a badly needed energy source for Africa's largest economy, which is heavily reliant on coal.

Petrochemicals group Sasol, Anglo American and Falcon Oil and Gas are among those eyeing shale gas in the region, although oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is leading the pack with exploration rights to 90,000 sq km (34,750 sq mile).

But farmers and conservationists are opposed to shale gas development in a parched region famed for its succulent lamb, big skies and rare plant and animal life.

Public concern focuses on hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," in which drillers blast millions of liters of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock to create cracks for gas and oil to escape.

A local environment group has vowed to take the matter to court if Shell or anyone else gets the green light.

"We will pursue an interdict against the government and or any other applicable party to reverse any decision to award an exploration license," Jonathan Dean, coordinator of the Treasure the Karoo Group (TKAG), told Reuters.

Environmentalists say natural gas helps reduce carbon emissions as it burns more cleanly than coal or oil.

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