Harare (New Ziana) – Zimbabwe expects to start producing sufficient electricity for domestic use and surplus for export by 2024 through the exploitation of its huge and untapped Coal Bed Methane (CBM) deposits as well as investment in new thermal power stations, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Zimbabwe has one of the highest measured CBM resources in Southern Africa and is believed to be sitting on an estimated 765 billion cubic metres in the Hwange/Lupane basins.
Coal bed methane offers a cleaner alternative source of power compared to coal and the scope is even greater for its exploitation considering that Zimbabwe is battling a severe power crisis through over-reliance on hydro power which is affected by seasonal rainfall patterns.
CBM can also be converted into diesel, petrol, ethanol, fertilizers, aviation fuel and other products including specialist lubricants and waxes.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said the country expected to generate electricity from CBM within the next two years while five investors, including Afrochine, Jinan and Karo Resources were also at various stages of setting up thermal power stations.
“Government is intensifying the drive for the extraction of coal bed methane into the production of electricity as well as other household and industrial uses. The development of CBM and oil deposits will be sped up and the first CBM electricity power station should be operational by 2021 at a capacity of 200 megawatts,” he said.
“At the moment there is work in progress on the establishment of over 2 000 megawatts from new coal and CBM projects by 2023. The major objective is that Zimbabwe should be exporting electricity by 2024, the objective is that Zimbabwe should be fuel self-sufficient by 2030.”
Chitando said a CBM- Oil strategy would be unveiled mid next year to give impetus to the growth of the energy sector.
In terms of oil production from CBM, he said two projects were in the pipe-line.
“As for two of the projects, one has come up with a bankable feasibility study which demonstrates the capacity to produce 600 million litres of diesel. The other is a pre-bankable feasibility study of 400 million litres. So from CBM alone, Zimbabwe has the opportunity to produce over a billion litres, let alone the other initiatives from oil,” he said.
Analysts contend that CBM exploitation presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to lessen its dependence on imported petroleum and electricity while also providing an alternative means to produce cleaner energy from coal.