--> --> The Next Frontier in South African Shale Gas and Tight Oil Extraction: Strategic Reduction of Environmental Impact

2018 AAPG International Conference and Exhibition

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The Next Frontier in South African Shale Gas and Tight Oil Extraction: Strategic Reduction of Environmental Impact

Abstract

The laggard adoption of environmental mitigation technologies in the unconventional shale gas and tight oil extraction industries in South Africa, however, proposes that cost effectiveness is an essential but inadequate situation for technology enactment. Lease-holder education and empowerment, enticements for technology implementation, and monitoring interventions will be critical in stimulating widespread adoption of these technologies. Finally, effective policy instruments will be based upon a systemic understanding of the regional impacts associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction and will adapt as drilling activity expands to new plays. The relative novelty of combined horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies, combined with the intensity of drilling operations and the distribution over populated areas, necessitates a comprehensive evaluation of environmental impacts from shale gas and tight oil extraction. It also motivates an honest evaluation of impacts and risks intrinsic to the process itself, and those impacts or risks that can be mitigated through environmental technologies or better management practices. Unconventional extraction presents two types of environmental effect: those impacts or risks intrinsic to the hydraulic fracturing process, and those that can be mitigated through environmental technologies or better management practices. Yet, heterogeneity among plays, including population density, water resource availability, infrastructure access, ecological sensitivity, and subsurface geology, precludes a single set of solutions to cost-effectively mitigating the environmental impacts of unconventional extraction. Contextualizing impacts within the framework of a regional environment will support prioritizing mitigation efforts.