Shell to tackle fracking concerns with education by Paul Garvey, October 16, 2012, The Australian
THE man in charge of Royal Dutch Shell’s $US1.2 billion ($1.17bn) in annual research and development spending says it is education, rather than technical innovation, that can end the global controversy around fracking. Matthias Bichsel, a member of Shell’s executive committee and the company’s director of projects and technology, told The Australian in an exclusive interview that community concerns about the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, needed to be addressed firstly through better communication with the public.
NSW recently lifted a moratorium on fracking and Victoria banned the process in August. Fracking has also been the subject of widespread debate in North America and Europe. Dr Bichsel said that, while the company was studying a number of potential alternatives to fracking, community relations had an important role to play. “Before we go to technology, you have to acknowledge that fracking is a public concern and the industry has to do a better job, together with governments and regulators, to explain to the public how we can do it in a safe way,” Dr Bichsel said. “I absolutely know we can do it safely, and at the same time I also know, and I’m very sad, that there have been incidents where it wasn’t done safely. …”
Dr Bichsel said Shell and other groups were exploring ways to minimise or eliminate fracking. His company was looking to increase its understanding of the behaviour of rock formations in order to reduce the need for fracking.
In addition, the company was looking into alternative methods of fracking, including the use of electrical pulses.
The company is also working with Chinese groups to build smaller, lighter, custom-built drill rigs that can carry out coal seam gas and shale drilling with a much smaller impact at the surface. Shell is investing heavily in coal seam gas and shale gas and is pursuing the Arrow Energy coal seam gas project in Queensland and forming a joint venture with PetroChina to explore for unconventional oil and gas in China. Dr Bichsel said Shell believed demand for gas would increase dramatically as the level of urbanisation around the world jumped from 50 per cent to 75 per cent by 2050. [Emphasis added]