New ef­forts to re­sus­ci­tate coal bed methane ex­plo­ration

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Mar­tin Kadzere

THERE are re­newed ef­forts to re­sus­ci­tate ex­plo­ration of coal bed methane in the Mata­bele­land North Prov­ince to prove whether the re­source is com­mer­cially vi­able.

Of­fi­cials within Min­istries of En­ergy and Power Devel­op­ment and Mines and Min­ing Devel­op­ment con­firmed some meet­ings have been held, cen­tred on how the project could be re­vived. A steer­ing com­mit­tee would be formed to spear­head the project.

Lu­pane Gas, a unit of the In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion was the project pro­moter, but failed to raise the $12 mil­lion re­quired to prove whether the re­source is com­mer­cially vi­able.

“It is the project the Gov­ern­ment would want to see pro­gress­ing,” said one of­fi­cial.

Mines and Min­ing Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Wal­ter Chid­hakwa said last week the ex­plo­ration of the coal bed methane had been stopped, but could not pro­vide the rea­sons.

As part of its prod­uct di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, Hwange Col­liery Com­pany Ltd last year in­vited bids for com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in part­ner­ing the coal mine in ex­plore coal bed methane in Lu­bimbi area.

An­other com­pany, China Sun­light En­ergy is also look­ing at in­vest­ing in gas wells in Lu­pane for power gen­er­a­tion. This is part of the com­pany’s $2,1 bil­lion in­vest­ment pro­gramme, which will also in­clude the es­tab­lish­ment of coal mines and a ther­mal power sta­tion. Glob­ally, lead­ing economies have recog­nised the im­por­tance of coal bed methane as an alternative en­ergy source. They have al­ready made ma­jor strides in the devel­op­ment of wells, pipe­lines and down­stream in­dus­tries. With coal bed methane, an­a­lysts say Zim­babwe could turn from a net im­porter of fer­tilis­ers to a net ex­porter. Coal bed methane is used to pro­duce hy­dro­gen which in turn, is used in the man­u­fac­ture of am­mo­nia for fer­tiliser. There are two coal basins in Zim­babwe; one is in the western part of the coun­try and the other in the south east of the coun­try. The coun­try has an es­ti­mated mea­sured coal bed methane re­sources that ex­ceed the to­tal mea­sured re­sources in Sadc. Ac­cord­ing to some ge­o­log­i­cal sur­veys, Sadc gas re­sources amount to 420 bil­lion cu­bic me­tres while it is es­ti­mated that the Hwange/Lu­pane basins have over 800 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres per square kilo­me­tre. Zim­babwe is also be­lieved to hold the largest known re­serve of coal bed methane in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa. How­ever, there is need for fur­ther fea­si­bil­ity work to move from a Mea­sured Re­source to a Proven Re­serve. Early in 2012, Mozam­bique dis­cov­ered coal and coal bed methane in ar­eas that bor­der Zim­babwe’s Man­i­ca­land Prov­ince. The CBM is be­lieved to flow into Zim­babwe.

Min­is­ter Wal­ter Chid­hakwa

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