The energy ministry this week allayed fears by the public that oil exploration being conducted in the Kavango regions by Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) will include fracking.
Also known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is the unconventional production process used to extract discovered oil or gas from sedimentary rocks that are highly compacted with poor permeability.
A statement from the petroleum commissioner, Maggy Shino, said ReconAfrica, a subsidiary of Canadian-based Reconnaissance Energy, has no fracking licence in Namibia – and that no such license is being considered.
“We can confirm to the nation that no licence to conduct fracking activities was granted to Reconnaissance Energy by the ministry and no such licence is being contemplated,” read the statement from Shino. She continued the ministry is working closely with ReconAfrica and the ministry of environment to ensure the current drilling and future operations are performed in an environmentally sound manner.
ReconAfrica was issued with a Petroleum Exploration Licence (No 73) to undertake exploration activities in the north-eastern parts of Namibia.
According to Shino, work to be conducted under this licence, as stipulated in the Petroleum Agreement signed between ReconAfrica and government, means the company may reprocess and interpret all geological and geophysical data available; conduct geochemical soil analysis; conduct an integral assessment of the blocks petroleum potential; conduct environmental impact assessments for drilling and seismic acquisition operations, drill stratigraphic or exploration wells, acquire 2D seismic data, acquire 3D seismic data, and drill and evaluate the initial delineation tests.
“According to the Environmental Clearance Certificate approved by the Environmental Commissioner in this ministry, the exploration activities will not cover the entire licence area and will be limited to an area situated about 80 km south of the Okavango River, 40 km from the boundary of the Khaudum National Park – and is more than 260 km from the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The approved two stratigraphic wells are furthermore not located in any conservancy or environmentally sensitive area. The potential footprint for this activity will only occur in the area that is not bigger than 250 x 250 meters around each well. The actual size of the wells to be drilled is about 30 x 30 centimetres,” Shino explained.
She added that ReconAfrica is currently at the early stages of exploration, where they are drilling three stratigraphic wells.
The results obtained from this drilling exercise will eventually advise the layout of the seismic acquisition, which is ReconAfrica’s next activity.
Shino added that only once success is achieved during the exploration phase, in a form of a commercial discovery, a production licence will be entered into following negotiations of the field development plan that will form the basis of the production licence’s terms and conditions.
“We are well aware of the value and wealth that our country is endowed with – both on the surface and subsurface. It is our objective as a ministry to regulate the exploration and exploitation of our country’s natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner and utilise an evidence-based approach when making decisions to formulate policies. The drilling of these stratigraphic wells is one of the methods used to obtain technical evidence and data of our subsurface environment to enable sound economic decisions,” Shino stated.
Meanwhile, responding to questions by fellow parliamentarians on ReconAfrica’s activities in Namibia, environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta emphasised the company only has an exploration license and not a production license. Shifeta emphasised that his ministry only approved two explorational stratigraphic wells for the purpose of data gathering to understand the geology and confirm the existence of oil or gas for possible detailed explorations.
This, said Shifeta, is, therefore, not a clearance for the company to go ahead with the fracking method.
“Only if the exploration well discovers oil and gas, the final step in the exploration process will be to determine the economics of the find and to assess the characteristics of the reservoir, and to determine if the discovered oil or gas can be produced economically, using either conventional or unconventional production methods. This key step in the process will require further approval from the appropriate regulatory authorities,” said Shifeta.
The minister noted it remains to be seen whether Namibia has a commercially or economically viable oil or gas reserve at the exploration sites, and whether there is a compacted sedimentary reservoir rock that would require the use of an unconventional oil or gas production process, such as fracking.
Responding to a question regarding the hazards of fracking, Shifeta stated: “As mentioned, this is, for now, still a hypothetical concern, as ReconAfrica has neither decided on nor applied for the use of the fracking production method. If it is so decided to apply for environmental clearance certificate for such, this matter will be further explored and handled in the Environmental Impact Assessment study”. – firstname.lastname@example.org