At the second conference in Johannesburg on Zimbabwe’s energy future, the Fossil Fuel Foundation has hosted a forum for awareness, discussion and debate on developments in the country.

For many years coal has been the only significant source of energy in Zimbabwe. It has one major colliery – Hwange – capable of producing up to 5 million tons a year of coking and thermal coals, and a number of others coming on stream. It also has estimated open cast coal resources of the order of 20 billion tons.

Now, natural gas next door in Mozambique has become a major new factor for the country. It has also been shown that Zimbabwe has significant resources of coalbed methane (CBM) in its deep coals.

In addition, there are explorations programmes undergoing investigations in coal-to-liquid opportunities in certain coalfields. “Until the late 1980s, Southern Africa was one of the most overlooked gas deposits,” says Oliver Maponga from the Hwange Colliery in Zimbabwe. “But the CBM gas resource is significant at Gwayi, Lusecha, Lupane and Hwange.”

The benefits of this include direct power generation, rather than importing power from neighbouring states, such as Mozambique. “Combining gas with the high ash coals in thermal power generation is key,” says Maponga. “This could also replace imported diesel and petrol transport in the nation’s agricultural fleet.”

Judging from gas estimated for a relatively small portion of the basin, the Zambizi Basin alone could be home to very huge deposits of the gas that with contribute significantly to Zimbabwe’s energy needs, concludes Maponga. “CBM, being a pure natural gas that requires little processing, is the cleanest form of fossil fuel.”

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