The government of Botswana has admitted to granting fracking licences in the southern African nation after a documentary exposed operations authorities had previously denied.
According to the film The High Cost of Cheap Gas, those activities are happening in environmentally sensitive areas, including the country’s Kalahari National Park, home to one of the world’s largest elephant herds and a well-known tourist destination.
Global reaction to the news was immediate:
The documentary forced Botswana’s government last week to issue a press release addressing some of those concerns.
“No current operations have been given permission to conduct hydraulic fracking…. Permission has, however, been given in some instances in the past for the use of industrial explosives in sub-surface fracturing, which some may view as a type of ‘fracking'”, was the official answer.
Documentary maker, American journalist Jeffrey Barbee, has clarified his work is not anti-fracking. He said he just wanted Botswana’s people to have the opportunity to debate the issue with their leaders.
In an interview with The Citizen, Barbee said he was ‘blown away’ when he realized the people of Botswana didn’t seem to know anything about fracking, nor that it was already happening in their land.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to break underground rocks and release oil or gas. Opponents claim it generates air pollution and can contaminate water. Fracking enthusiasts, in turn, say it is safe practice that creates jobs, while addressing energy needs.
You can watch a preview of the documentary here:
Image by Jon Rawlinson
PARLIAMENTARY BRIEF ON THE SO-CALLED FRACKING ACTIVITIES IN COAL BED METHANE OPERATIONS IN BOTSWANA
Delivered by the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, the Hon. Kitso Mokaila, 25 November 2013
Madam Speaker, over the past week a number of publications appeared in the local and foreign media making allegations about ‘fracking’ activities being carried out in our country, including the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). ‘Fracking’ is a slang term used to describe processes involving sub-surface fracturing of rocks, usually through the injection of fluids to facilitate the flow of
Government through the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources responded by confirming that the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, has not issued any mining licence for shale gas or coal bed methane operations in Botswana. However, several prospecting licences (PL) for coal bed
methane (CBM) and petroleum were issued in different parts of the country and a
few of those fall within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).
Madam Speaker, between 2001 and 2003, the Department of Geological Survey undertook and successfully completed a preliminary CBM exploration study. The main objective of the study was to assess the availability and the potential for
development of natural gas resources associated with the coal-bearing sequences of the Kalahari Karoo Basin. The results of this study stimulated private investment in CBM prospecting in Botswana. As at end of September 2012 there were a total of 121 Prospecting Licences granted for energy minerals (for coal and CBM). The number has since reduced to 88 as of October 2013. This reduction is mostly the licences within the CKGR which were cancelled or relinquished. The maps showing prospecting licences are published in print and electronic as public documents and therefore the issue of secrecy does not arise as alleged by the media.
Madam Speaker, there is a lot of confusion regarding the terms Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane, along with an array of other terms. Shale Gas is defined as a natural gas produced from a rock formation called shale. Shale has low permeability, so gas production in commercial quantities requires stimulation by fracturing (or so called fracking) to provide permeability for the gas to flow out.
Coal Bed Methane (CBM), also sometimes known as sweet gas, coal bed gas, or coal seam gas, is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. To extract the gas, a steel-encased hole is drilled into the coal seam (at least 400 meters below
ground) and pressure within the coal seams brings water and gas to the surface for extraction.
Shale gas and CBM can be produced economically by using vertical and/or horizontal drilling, and hydraulic fracking. Horizontal drilling is the process of drilling a well from the surface to a subsurface location just above the target gas reservoir or coal seam called the “kickoff point”, then deviating the well bore from the vertical plane around a curve to intersect the reservoir at the “entry point” with a near-horizontal inclination, and remaining within the reservoir until the
desired bottom hole location is reached.
Hydraulic fracturing is the use of fluid and material to create or restore small
fractures in a formation in order to stimulate production from new and existing
oil and gas wells. This creates paths that increase the rate at which fluids
can be produced from the reservoir formations, in some cases by many hundreds
Both processes involves steps to protect water supplies. To ensure that neither the fluid that will eventually be pumped through the well, nor the gas that will
eventually be collected, enters the water supply, steel surface or intermediate
casings are inserted into the well. Cement sealing is done to the top of the
coal seam to seal off the borehole from the water aquifer above, typical other
layers on non-porous rock formations such as mudstones also prevents water from the production borehole to be in contact with aquifers above.
With respect to prospecting activities in the country, no current operations have
been given permission to conduct hydraulic fracking. If such a process were to
be carried out without authorisation it would be a violation of the Mines and
Minerals Act of 1999 and the Environmental Assessment Act of 2011.
Special type of explosives were however, permitted for issue to one company in Lephephe and Mashoro in 2008, 2009 and 2010. These were once off permits which are no longer valid. The explosives were used to fracture coals or
carbonaceous materials on wells at depths of more than 450 metre. No fracturing
has been done in the CKGR to date as alleged in the media.
The current controversy being generated in some media about so-called fracking in our country is related to a publicity campaign to promote a documentary film by the Open Society of Southern Africa entitled ‘The High Cost of Cheap Gas’ whose full content we look forward to seeing. For now all I can say is that although the filmmakers apparently targeted our country there is no record of them ever approaching Government about their allegations.
The motives behind the smear campaign is not yet clear, however what is clear is that it is targeted at undermining the progressive Mineral Development of our country as we embark on our mineral diversification drive. My Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working around the clock to ensure that Government officials attend the launch, after which I will come back to this house to give you a full brief.
Finally, Madam Speaker I appeal to this house to collectively defend the sovereignty of our state against this smear campaigns against the country for the betterment of the quality of lives of our people.
Looks like more lazy journalism. Really tempting to use the terms “fracking” isn’t it but what is being discussed here is coal bed methane drainage and not extraction of gas from shales by fracking. Opening a technical dictionary might help Ms Jamasmie the next time although you would think a mining article site would employ people with just a little knowledge of the subject. Everything else here is the usual unsubstantiated, subjective and emotive porridge. Go elsewhere for informed debate………which is needed…………but this ain’t it. You do neither side any justice. Dire.
I agree with Gus get all the facts correct. There are a lot of environmentalists that would go to stretching info to create debate. that is ok if the truth come out and we get all the facts from all sides.
This is a shoddy piece of journalism. Why claim there is fracking in Botswana where there is none? All that is going on is exploration, which is by its nature very small scale. As Gus says, it is mainly CBM drainage and dewatering. Sure, there are environmental issues to be considered if and when anybody wants to go to commercial scale, but there are processes in place to handle this. All the information about PLs is in the public doman, and the exploration companies have also made their activities public, so why claim that information is being hidden?
And of course there are no elephants in the CKGR….its a desert…and elephants need water…lots.