Among the companies targeting this resource is Shell. They want to frack an area that is larger than Sierra Leone, an area of 90,000km squared.
Jan Willem Eggink, the man charged by Shell to find viable oil and gas in Africa, believes if fracking is done correctly, it won’t harm the environment.
“I understand that people are concerned about it. If I was living in the Karoo I would be concerned if Shell came to my farm and started drilling on it. I feel if could talk to farmers in the Karoo and tell them what we planned to do, in most cases they would say ‘okay I now understand it and I significantly less concerned’…What is true, I must admit, is there have been cases of gas leaking where wells have not been sealed off properly. You need to seal and test them properly.”
Eggink thinks fracking could be a game changer for the country. The South African government thinks so too. They estimate that fracking will create 700,000 jobs and make the country self-sufficient. Right now 70% of its gas is imported.
“The most logical one [use for gas] for South Africa, would be to convert it to power …I’m not saying gas is the only answer. Our view is that South Africa needs more energy than it can lay its hands on… The point is, if you operate at high standards, which Shell intends to do, then there is no reason why your water would be contaminated. You need good companies in place to operate this,” says Eggink.
By spending his days buried in files, Light, the lawyer, has stalled fracking for five years. In 2008, one farmer objected to proposals by Sunset Energy, now Light is represents thousands of farmers.
“If they had not objected, the government would have gone ahead with fracking in 2009, in a totally unregulated fashion. We wouldn’t even be here. The real issue is; can fracking go ahead and if the country has the capacity and the infrastructure for it? Right now I don’t see it. So we will keep opposing them until it is safe,” says Light.