Groundwater threatened by drilling

Risk-Based Solutions has invited the public to three meetings on ReconAfrica’s plan to explore for oil and gas in the Okavango Basin.

20 January 2021 | Environment

FRANK STEFFEN

WINDHOEK

In 2011, a hydrological study dating back to 2001 was republished.

Together with the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR in Hanover, Germany), the then ministry of agriculture, water and rural development as well as the ministry of mining and energy compiled a study titled ‘Groundwater in Namibia’, which was intended as supplementary explanation for the Namibian hydrology map.

Greg Christelis and Wilhelm Struckmeier are listed as editors and personalities such as Frank Bockmühl, Piet Heyns, Gabi Schneider, John Mendelsohn and Sindila Mwiya are listed alongside many other specialists.

In the study, all water-bearing basins and wells in Namibia are analysed.

The Okavango-Epukiro Basin, which extends from the northern border of Namibia down to just before Gobabis, was one of the areas of the study.

This basin is part of the prehistoric Permian Basin, which the company Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) describes as "another world-class Permian basin, analogous to the Texan sedimentary basin".

In the BGR study, the basin is described in two parts: the Kavango region consists of layers of unconsolidated deposits that house a porous aquifer (aquifer comprising loose or solid rock, whose pore space is traversed by groundwater), while the Omaheke region (Epukiro) rests on a fractured aquifer.

According to the report, the bedrock consists mainly of sedimentary and quartz rocks as well as marble, mica schist and amphibolite. Because of its permeable layers, it is relatively easy to drill for water, but there is also the danger of water pollution, especially as all the water in the basin is interconnected.

Public input

Meanwhile, the company Risk-Based Solutions (RBS), a technical specialist in oil, gas, mineral and energy exploration, has invited the public to three meetings and open discussions, as ReconAfrica intends to submit an application for an environmental impact certificate.

The meetings will be held on 20 January at Nkurenkuru, on 22 January at Rundu, and from 23 to 25 January at places like Ncamagoro, Gcuru, Ncuncuni and Ncaute.

RBS is led by Dr Sindila Mwiya who, in his capacity as project advisor to ReconAfrica, assured farmers at the end of 2020 that “only two wells would be drilled as part of an exploration obligation”.

Mwiya is one of the experts who previously had spoken out in favour of the conservation of groundwater in the BGR study.

Fracking

ReconAfrica continues to claim that no hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is planned. On the other hand, it repeatedly cites a report by the American specialist consultancy Wood Mackenzie, titled ‘Kavango Basin Review & Global Benchmarking – ReconAfrica’.

This report confirms that the Kavango Basin is a Permian basin that can be compared with the Midlands Sedimentary Basin in Texas.

This comparison is interesting because Wood Mackenzie notes the following with reference to the Midland Basin: “The Midland Basin production has had a dual-peak in production, firstly fuelled by conventional plays, and more recently unconventional exploitation.”

Fracking is considered to be "unconventional exploitation”.

The report further states: “The Midland Basin started production in the 1930s. Early production was conventional and peaked in the 1970s, at which time total Texan production comprised around 7% of production globally. Production declined through to the mid 2000s until the unconventional revolution and the exploitation of the Wolfcamp and Spraberry plays."

Based on that direct comparison it would seem that ReconAfrica’s vision of producing “billions of barrels” is only realistically achievable if it uses fracking over the long term, similar to the Midland Basin.

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