Fracking has become the catch all term for the extraction of Unconventional Gas.

This includes resources which cannot be explored, developed and produced by conventional drilling processes.  Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane are two of these resources.  Conventional methods use the natural pressure of the wells and pumping or compression operations. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a mining process that is used to extract gas from rock.

To extract the gases from shale and coal seams, conventional methods are not cost effective.  Fracking makes it easier for the miners to ‘monetise’ these fossil fuels, hence the recent proliferation of unconventional gas companies and activities.

Unconventional gas is found in onshore gas deposits trapped within deep geological formations, often within shale rock, coal deposits or tight sandstone. Shale is one type of gas bearing rock – others include coal seams and certain sandstones – known as tight rock. The fracking process involves drilling a deep well into an underground rock formation, after which fluids are pumped into the well at extremely high pressures – pressures high enough to crack extremely hard rock. The high pressure of the fluid causes the rock to shatter, after which the fluid is withdrawn and gas is released.

View across part of KZN under threat of exploration and possibly fracking

Shale Gas – Typically found at depths between 1500 – 3000 m. • Horizontal well 1500 – 3000 m. • The rock is hydraulically fractured multiple times (usually in stages). Older shale gas wells were vertical. Recent wells are primarily horizontal and need artificial stimulation, like hydraulic fracturing, to produce gas. • Fractures extend between 150 – 250 m perpendicularly from the horizontal well. • Several horizontal lateral bores can extend from a vertical well. • Uses more water than CBM production.

Only the Exploration Application for the Matatiele region will look for Shale Gas.

Coal Bed Methane – CBM first extracted from coal mines to reduce the explosion hazard. Today methane is captured & used as energy source.• Typically found at depths of 800 – 1200 m (but can also be found as little as 100 metres below the surface). • May lead to higher venting (gas freely released into the atmosphere) of methane as compared with shale gas. • Drilling and fracking at shallower depth means higher risk of water contamination. • Requires less water as input, but produces more high salinity water than shale gas production

Ten other Exploration Applications in South Africa are focused on Coal Bed Methane.

Exploration companies may claim that they won’t be fracking, which could be technically correct, but as Sinegugu Zukulu said at one of the Rhino Oil & Gas meetings “I won’t pay lobola if I don’t intend to get married!”.  Exploration leads to extraction, which is likely to involve fracking.  Once an exploration right has been granted and sufficient sources of hydrocarbons are found, then extraction applications are seldom denied.  The regulator involved in authorising these applications is PASA, the agency whose objective as stated on their website is as follows:

Petroleum Agency SA promotes exploration for onshore and offshore oil and gas resources and their optimal development on behalf of government. The Agency regulates exploration and production activities, and acts as the custodian of the national petroleum exploration and production database.

With this mandate, would you trust them to fairly assess the impacts on the health and resilience of communities of unconventional gas exploration and extraction applications?

Fracking Facts

  • Fracking is short for ‘hydraulic fracturing’
  • Shale rock formations trap gas between the layers
  • Wells can be 5kms deep and extend for 1-3km horizontally
  • Sand and chemicals are pumped into the well under pressure
  • This creates cracks in the rock, releasing the gas
  • Each well uses between 6 and 25 million litres of water
  • Each well uses up to 150 000kgs of sand
  • Chemicals include: Arsenic, Chlorides, Radon, Benzene
  • The waste water is contaminated by chemicals
  • Each well is mined for 3-6 years
  • Jobs are short term
  • Extensive roads and pipelines are laid around wells
  • Methane is a by-product of fracking and more harmful than carbon dioxide for Climate Change

Easy to print Fracking Fact Sheet to download

Bronwyn Howard’s Fracking in SA – A Beginners Guide

Professor Tony Ingraffea of Cornell University on the myths of fracking.

Watch Shattered Ground

Communities across the globe are threatened by fracking.  The Greenpeace response.

fracking infographic



  • I-Fracking igama elichaza umsebenzi wokumayina kwegesi ngokusetshenziswa kwamanzi
  • Amadwala angaphansi komhlaba agcina yona legesi
  • Umthombo (well) wegesi ungaba amakhilomitha amahlanu (5km) ngokushona uphinde ube amakhilomitha amathathu (3km) ububanzi
  • Isihlabathi sihlangene kanye namakhemikhali afakwa kulemithombo ngaphansi kwenkulu ingcindezi
  • Lengcindezi eqhamuka kwisihlabathi sihlangene namakhemikhali sigcina sesivule imifantu kumadwala kudedeleke igesi
  • Ukumayina kwegesi ngaloluhlobo akujwayelekile futhi akuvamile
  • Umthombo we-gesi ngamunye usebenzisa amalitha ayizigidi eziyisithupha (6 million litres) kuya kwayizigidi ezingamashumi amabili nanhlanu (25 million litres)
  • Umthombo we-gesi ngamunye usebenzisa isihlabathi esiningi kakhulu
  • Amakhemikhali asetshenziswayo kuloluhlelo lwe-Fracking: Arsenic, Benzene, Radon ne-Chloride
  • Amanzi asasetshenziswa adungwa yiwo amakhemikhali
  • Umthombo we-gesi ngamunye ugujwa iminyaka emithathu (3 years) kuya kweyisithupha (6 years)
  • Imisebenzi etholakala kuloluhlelo mincane futhi eyesikhashana
  • Kwakhiwa imigwaqo ebanzi kanye nemigudu yamaphayiphi ezungeza lemithombo
  • Lokhu kumayina kuhlongozwa ukuthi benziwe ezindaweni ezibucayi maduzane nemifula esiyisebenzisayo

Easy to print isiZulu Fracking Fact Sheet to download

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