Zesa mulls US$4bn gas-fired plant


ZIMBABWE’S power utility Zesa Holdings Ltd says it plans to build a gas-fired power station as it prepares for a potential find by Australia Stock Exchange-listed resources junior Invictus Energy, which is exploring for oil and gas in the country.

After failing to strike a find during its first round of test well drilling in Zimbabwe’s Cabora Bassa oil and gas fields last year, Invictus said this week it was raving up exploration on the 2 000-hectare claims located near Mahuwe in Mbire.

In a separate prospectus sent to investors this week, Invictus said it had secured firm offtake agreements for its gas.

However, the firm did not say if Zesa had signed up for such deals.

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on the sidelines of the fourth International Renewable Energy Conference and Expo on Wednesday, Zesa consultant Cletus Nyachowe said they were already scouting for requisite technologies to set up the facility.

The conference, a product of Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), took place in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

“There are proven gas resources in Mozambique,” Nyachowe told the Independent. “We are interconnected with Mozambique. So, there is scope for us, as Zesa, collaborating with our partners in Mozambique to exploit these resources for the production of power stations. It takes much less to deploy a gas power station than a large-scale hydro.

“It is an opportunity that we should look at as a country. And obviously, you know about the Muzarabani (Invictus project) gas exploration.

“They (Invictus Energy) haven’t announced a find, but we shouldn’t get to a situation where the gas is announced and we are not ready for investing in gas power stations,” he added.

Work already taking place behind the scenes includes identifying the right technologies and exploring the frameworks within which to set up a gas-fired facility.

The firm was also looking for related transmission lines for such facilities, according to Nyachowe.

“There are a lot of issues (to consider),” he said. “For instance, over what distance are you transporting the gas, the pipeline costs and so forth. But for a 2 500 megawatts (MW) power station, we will be looking at slightly over US$4 billion as a guide.”

Zimbabwe’s economy is currently battling a dire power crisis stemming from old facilities at the country’s thermal power plants.

Prolonged droughts have also affected water levels at Lake Kariba, where Zimbabwe operates the 1 050MW Kariba South Hydroelectric Power Station.

In the past few months, the economy has been hit by blackouts of up to 18 hours a day, as authorities struggle to pay for imports.

Industries say up to US$4 billion could be lost this year as a result of the power crisis.

Alternatives like gas-fired power stations would be vital to address the crisis, according to experts.

Already, Zimbabwe has lined up several mini hydro and solar power projects to ameliorate power shortages.

Reports this week said even after failing to strike gas or oil last year, Invictus was confident that the Mukuyu-1 and side-track (ST-1) test wells, which were drilled last year, bore several gas zones.

The company stopped further drilling in January this year, citing “unsuitable” and “not feasible” conditions.

Invictus has reportedly identified 13 potential hydro-carbon-bearing zones at its Mukuyu-1.

Managing director Scott Macmillan has revealed that preparations for Mukuyu-2 appraisal test well had commenced and drilling was expected to start in the third quarter of this year.

The firm, which is hoping to make Zimbabwe’s first oil find, said it would use what it learnt from the Mukuyu-1/ST-1 well as it moves forward.

The firm said Exalo Rig 202 remained warm stacked at the Mukuyu-1 wellsite, with planned upgrades and maintenance to commence in April following the end of the wet season and prior to mobilisation to the Mukuyu-2 wellsite.

The four-day conference, whose theme is “Managing The Future — Clean Energy Possibilities”, is being attended by top energy experts, financiers, green energy entrepreneurs and investors, among others.

It is being organised by The Standard in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.

AMH are the publishers of The Standard, NewsDay, Zimbabwe Independent and Southern Eye. The group also owns tele-radio platform Heart and Soul.

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