Pushing away the threat

Durban – The Texas-based oil exploration company Rhino Resources has cut back on the scale of its proposed oil and gas exploration bid in KwaZulu-Natal after a major public backlash.

The company’s local subsidiary company, Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration, lodged an exploration application early last year covering a massive 1 500 000 ha chunk of the province and nearly 10 000 farms.

Now the scale of its exploration bid has been reduced to 850000 ha and about 6 700 properties in central KZN.

Environmental consultants acting for the company acknowledged that there had been “extremely strong” and almost unanimous public opposition to the exploration plan, which could ultimately involve hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

 The consultants said it was evident that the majority of opposition was against the environmental and social risks of fracking if viable oil and gas reserves were to be found.

“It is further perceived that this (fracking) could lead to widespread impacts on water and land, causing devastation to livelihoods. The perception is informed by the widely publicised negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the decisions taken by many governing bodies around the world to suspend such activities,” the consultants said in a notice published at the weekend.

“The related concern is that once an exploration right is granted, it will be nearly impossible to stop the process later.

“For these reasons the public approach is to close the door on exploration before it opens… thereby preventing any future risk, or potential benefit, from resulting.”

The company would focus only on an aerial survey method known as “full tensor gradiometry” (FTG).

This method used multiple pairs of accelerometers to measure the rate of change of the gravity field to build up a picture of underground geology.

“FTG surveys involved grid-based flights using a light fixed-wing aircraft at an altitude of between 80m and 300m above the ground.”

In good weather, such a survey would take less than seven days to complete.

If the aerial surveys suggested commercially viable reserves of oil and gas in the exploration area, further environmental impact studies would have to be done before any ground-based drilling or exploration activities.

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/business/news/kzn-exploration-bid-texas-firm-backs-down-2067475