Last Updated
Tuesday 26 May 2015, 18:00 pm.
BPC probes as storm swells around CBM

Even as it prepares tenders for the supply of Coal Bed Methane (CBM), Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) is keeping an ear to the ground amid claims that the process to extract the gas could leak harmful chemicals, including radiation, to water sources.
By Staff Writer Wed 27 May 2015, 13:39 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: BPC probes as storm swells around CBM








BPC plans to convert the 90-megawatt (MW) Orapa Power Station from diesel to gas this year, saving taxpayers 60 percent of costs in running the peak power plant.

However, worldwide indignation is rising amid studies suggesting a CBM extraction method known as "fracking" has been linked to contamination of water sources with chemicals and substances such as Chromium-6 and diesel fuel.

The use of Chromium-6, an extremely toxic chemical, in fracking in the US and Canada has resulted in the awarding of millions of dollars to communities recently.

Fracking is a gas mining technique in which water mixed with corrosive chemicals is pumped down to great depths below the surface to fracture rocks and release gas bound in fissures in the rocks.

Across the US and Canada, authorities are banning the use of fracking as an extraction method because the corrosive chemicals apparently seep into water sources while the wastewater from the process absorbs radioactivity from naturally occurring minerals such as uranium.

In South Africa, anti-fracking lobbyists have upped the tempo for government to stop extraction of CBM from the rich Karoo Basin, arguing that the area is known to contain uranium which current sewerage plants are incapable of removing from water.On the home front, BPC says it is closely monitoring all developments regarding extraction of CBM. Said CEO, Jacob Releru on Wednesday: "We want to go out to tender for the supply of CBM to run the Orapa plant.

"There are issues causing concern with the Karoo development because the exploration here is using the same method of fracking.

"There is concern about the disturbance this underground fracking causes to get to the gas. We will be looking at it very closely, but we want to support development of CBM in the country."

In South Africa, anti-frackers are citing a recent New York Times' study that found that wastewater produced by fracking often absorbs radioactivity from minerals such as uranium. The influential newspaper said the radioactive wastewater is then discharged to sewage plants that do not have the capacity to remove this contamination, and is then pumped out into waterways from where drinking water is harvested.

The newspaper said states such as Pennsylvania were particularly badly affected. In neighbouring South Africa, the Weekend Post newspaper recently quoted the Chairman of Karoo Action Group, Jonathan Deal, thus: "When our government was touting its pebble bed modular reactor two years ago, the stated strategy was that the uranium feedstock necessary would come from the Karoo. 

"So we know uranium is down there, and this makes the findings in the US about radioactivity contaminating wastewater very important."The "anti-frackers" have turned their sights on energy minister, Dipuo Peters, who was recently quoted as saying: "If we don't use that gas for whatever purposes that we would want to use it, it will be released into the atmosphere, and it will also create another particular challenge."In Botswana, the issue is expected to stir a hornet's nest as the country's massive CBM resources are expected to play a major role not only in clean energy production going forward.

Studies by the Department of Geological Survey and others estimate the country has 17 billion tonnes of CBM, which are an extension of the Karoo Basin that stretches throughout southern Africa. Several companies hold exploration licences for CBM, with a handful close to commercial extraction.



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