Harare - Zimbabwe could soon find a solution to its fuel problems as it has embarked on a journey to extract diesel from its vast untapped coal-bed methane in the Zambezi valley and Hwange.
The initiative to extract diesel from coal was mooted by the country’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2018, and experts have been looking into the idea since then.
Last year, President Mnangagwa urged the country’s mining sector to take seriously the production of diesel from coal bed methane, outlining that Zimbabwe had the largest coal-bed methane reserves in the SADC region, yet they were just lying idle.
While making a presentation at the Zimbabwe pre-national budget seminar last week, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando pointed out that his ministry took President Mnangagwa’s word and the project was finally coming into life.
He added that the first feasibility study to bring to picture how Zimbabwe intends to run the project was currently underway and was expected to be complete by end of this month.
"We actually do have one company which is finalising a bankable feasibility study to be able to produce 600 million litres of diesel and that bankable feasibility study will be ready by the end of November.
"So, from coal alone, Zimbabwe should be able to produce more than half of its requirements of diesel,” the minister said.
Although no timeline has been made public as to how long it might take to establish structures or what direct or indirect conversion process would be used, the Zimbabwean government was confident that this initiative was the future of Zimbabwe’s energy sector.
Zimbabwe imports most of its fuel and such an initiative would definitely lessen the burden.
Apart from diesel, the government of Zimbabwe also intends to produce fertilizer from their gas reserves in Hwange and the Zambezi valley.
If the two projects come to life, Zimbabwe could not only replace half of its imported diesel with synthetic fuels, but also join countries like South Africa, Canada, Australia, and a few others that have successfully managed to make their coal beds an important energy source.
So far in the SADC region, South Africa is the most successful country in terms of producing diesel from coal.
South Africa, through Sasol, has for over a decade now been working with Haldor Topsoe AS of Lyngby, Denmark. Haldor Topsoe has been promoting Sasol’s slurry phase gas conversion technology for the production of high quality diesel from natural gas.
Most countries in Southern Africa are home to large gas deposits, yet only a few are currently utilising the natural resource.
So far, Mozambique, South Africa and Angola are some of the few countries that have successfully managed to utilise their coal beds by producing mainly gas and diesel from the natural resource.