Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE has made major strides towards developing a methane gas fired power plant after preliminary exploration by Shangani Energy Exploration on its mining claims in Lupane proved the existence of a considerable methane resource.
Sinosteel is the majority shareholder in Zimasco, Zimbabwe’s largest ferrochrome producer, which in turn owns 90 percent of Shangani Energy Exploration, the company that intends to build a methane gas-fired 400 megawatt plant.
Coal bed methane gas is an energy resource used for electricity generation, domestic and also works in automobiles as petrochemical fuel. The gas is extracted from coal basins.
The Lupane project is among those expected to ease the country’s acute power deficit, which has seen consumers, including businesses enduring long periods of power cuts.
Zimbabwe is facing its worst power crisis in three years, largely due to subdued production at its two major electricity plants. Low water levels at the Lake Kariba has seen production at the country’s largest hydroelectric plant falling significantly.
Recurring breakdowns at ageing Hwange thermal plant have also affected output while shortage of foreign currency is constraining the country’s ability to import.
At least US$780 million is needed for the methane gas project to be implemented in three phases, starting from exploration to full scale power generation of 400 megawatts over a 10 year period, spokesperson Ms Clara Sadomba said.
The investment is part of the US$1 billion deal signed by President Mnangagwa and Sinosteel in May last year, which will also see the building of additional chrome smelters at Zimasco’s Kwekwe smelting complex and in new ones in berengwa.
“Shangani Energy Exploration has carried out preliminary exploration work on two of the three special grants, where a total of six core holes were drilled and three production wells sunk,” said Ms Sadomba. “This was followed by pumping water from the production wells which demonstrated that gas and water can be produced. There is evidence of the existence of a considerable methane gas resource whose viability now needs to be proved. The first step towards obtaining this information is additional pumping of water in order to release commercial quantities of the gas.”
SEE concluded a consulting contract with the petroleum geologist that has extensive experience to produce a work programme with accompanying expenditures.
The programme will build on the preliminary works already done and will include more in depth exploration work to confirm the commercial quantities of methane gas hosted by the three special grants as part of the feasibility work, said Ms Sadomba.
The next phase of work entails intense exploration work, which will start with the installation of bigger pumps on the three wells to drain water so that the gas can be released as part of work to establish commercial viability. The three pumps, generators and other pieces of equipment for this next phase of exploration have been purchased and are in the country, ready for the installation. “This forms part of the work programme being developed by the consultant. SEE is keen to facilitate the process and get this next phase of work started as early as possible,” said Ms Sadomba.
In addition to power generation, an integrated petrochemical industry will be established with the creation of new jobs and new revenue streams for the nation. The whole CBM industry has the potential to create an economic boom for Zimbabwe.