Resuscitation of HCCL key to world energy production


It comes as no surprise that the new government is determined to put things into perspective and position Zimbabwe as one of the key players in Africa in terms of energy production. In pursing such a feasible but daunting tasks it is paramount to note global trends and forecasts so that “brand Zimbabwe” is well positioned and has a competitive edge in the markets e.g. the resuscitation of Hwange Colliery to full throttle production which is currently below capacity utilization while Government previously awarded about 20 companies Special Grants to explore and extract coal as well as coal-bed methane in Matabeleland North. It is estimated that Zimbabwe has about 30 billion metric tonnes of inferred and proven reserves of coal, let alone 500 million cubic meters of coal-bed methane (CBM) in an area of 177 square kilometres in Lupane. Reports say this is greater than any CBM reserves in the whole of East and Southern Africa. For interest sake, this belt of CBM also stretches into neighbouring Botswana. In the mid-1990s, world-class methane experts from Amoco, South Africa’s Sasol and Conoco visited Zimbabwe at the time, with one John Oehler of the Texas-based Continental Oil Company declaring that Zimbabwe had the best coal-bed methane on the continent. This, upon efficient administration, proper skills and strategic planning using the Fischer Tropsch Synthesis a technology that converts chemical feed-stocks such as coal, natural gas, coal bed methane (CBM) gas and biomass into a product stream that includes among other important commodities, petrol (gasoline), high quality diesel, paraffin and aviation fuel; can indeed solve much hyped energy crisis in the country, thus achieving its intended objective later alone produce oil from coal as was the case in America under a government Research project during WWII which was producing some 3000 barrels a day.

As indicated by International Energy Agency in its annual World Energy Outlook, The U.S. will surpass Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2015, and be close to energy self-sufficiency in the next two decades, amid booming output from shale formations. Crude prices will advance to $128 a barrel by 2035 with a 16 percent increase in consumption, supporting the development of so-called tight oil in the U.S. and a tripling in output from Brazil. The role of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will recover in the middle of the next decade as other nations struggle to repeat North America’s success with exploiting shale deposits, as predicted by the IEA.  Global oil demand will expand by 14 million barrels to average 101 million a day in 2035, according to the IEA report. The share of conventional crude will drop to 65 million barrels by the end of the period because of growth in unconventional supplies. The concentration in global oil trade will continue to shift to the Asia-Pacific from the Atlantic Basin, as China is on the verge of becoming the world’s biggest oil importer. India will displace China as the biggest driver of energy demand growth after 2020. The IEA estimates that almost 10 million barrels a day of oil processing capacity is “at risk” by 2035, with refineries in Europe in particular the most vulnerable. This equates to about 10 percent of current global capacity, based on data compiled by Bloomberg on more than 700 sites worldwide.

With such a backdrop on the current world market, the above report provides an opportunity of a decade for the Energy ministry in liaison with Mines Ministry to shift from ever planning to implementation so as tilt the scales of oil production in the world; also through further harnessed trade with China as it is predicted to become the world biggest oil importer. On the other hand as highlighted by the President that it is time for Zimbabwe to have its own refineries regarding the export of Platinum; it’s a wake-up call for all mineral producing companies in Zimbabwe.  This can be achieved through the following inclusion in the Bilateral Agreements: Intended investors cum importers should commit themselves to development of local refineries, workforce, and procurement of local manufactured safety clothing in return be privileged to subsidized oil. As  Asian-Pacific is fast becoming the concentration in global oil trade, India‘s demand for energy is likely to displace China this puts Zimbabwe in an advantageous position to bargain for lucrative returns while branding it as a safe haven for investments through the untapped natural gases in Lupane and coal deposits in Manicaland Province. Manicaland already boasts huge deposits of alluvial diamonds in Marange.   Such an endeavor will not only create employment rather fast track plethora of infrastructure development, revival of local industries and improve GDP.

As the respective Ministries  work towards such an attainment they should bear in mind that Reserves to Production (R/P) ratio in the energy industry it’s a cut throat field, any delay not only affects the next generation in terms of wealth creation but production costs will be high as there other alternative fields . For example South Africa plans to issue licenses permitting exploration of shale-gas reserves in the first quarter of 2014, Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (RDSA) and other explorers have applied for permits to explore the Karoo. South Africa, which imports 70 percent of its crude-oil needs, estimates shale gas may generate 1 trillion rand ($100 billion) of sales within three decades, helping bring it closer to supplying its own energy demand. The guestimate is that the country has a shale gas resource of 485-trillion cubic feet, about the fifth-largest such resource in the world. It may, depending on who you ask, add R200bn to the economy if even 10% of that resource is mined commercially.

Brazil will triple output to 6 million barrels a day by 2035 as it exploits deep-water reserves, an expansion that will account for one-third of the increase in global production and make the nation the world’s sixth-largest oil producer. Expanding refinery capacity in Asia and the Middle East along with reduced demand in many developed nations is intensifying the pressure for developed nations’ plants to close. The Middle East, the only large source of low-cost oil, remains at the center of the longer-term outlook.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain


Is a Zimbabwe Youth Council board member (Representing the Information and Communication Sector) can be contacted on He writes in his personal capacity.