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COVID-19 derails Kalahari Geo’s Bweengwa thermal power plant ops

AN energy investor says its operations in Monze district, Southern Province, have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday last week, Kalahari Geo Company director Moses Banda was in Monze to reassure council officials that the project remained on course, albeit its timeline had changed – due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Banda hopes President Edgar Lungu would further relax more sectors of the economy.

Kalahari Geo Company is working on a multimillion dollar thermal power project in Bweengwa, a classic rural set-up west of Monze town.

In complying with health guidelines, due to the disruptive COVID-19, Kalahari Geo’s operations in Bweengwa have almost ground to a halt.

“I have to confirm that our operations have been greatly affected by this pandemic. I can describe our challenges as twofold; as you know, the company has engaged drilling consultants from Australia and New Zealand while the engineering consultants are from the USA,” Dr Banda said on Thursday. “This has proved to be the first challenge due to travel restrictions by countries. Planes are not moving but Emirates flights seem to be promising to commence flights here (in Zambia) soon. The second challenge is the part where those coming into the country have to be quarantined for two weeks.”

Dr Banda is, however, elated that the President lifted some restrictions on the tourism industry when he visited Livingstone the other week, “and we are hoping that by June flights can start coming in.”

He added that it would be imperative if some restrictions on travelers, like the 14-day quarantine, could be removed, “so that in the next few weeks we can re-commence drilling at our Bweengwa site.”

When asked on the schedule for starting the pilot power generation in Bweengwa, which was earmarked for September this year, Dr Banda explained that the programme had been altered and that the schedule for the pilot project would only be confirmed once the crew moved back on site.

“We are already three months behind schedule, as it is. We normally have the crew back on site by March after the break but now we don’t even know when they will be getting to the site,” he said. “We hope the President will relax some of the restrictions so that some sectors can go back to working. Of course, we will have to put up measures to ensure that workers are safe from the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Kalahari Geo Company has secured a US $3.2 million loan from CAMCO Green Energy, a renewable energy investment promotion agency funded by the British government, for its next phase of drilling.

Dr Banda explained that to date, Kalahari Geo had privately financed the Bweengwa project, which had seen the firm drill 18 exploratory wells, and that the loan facility would help to complete the next phase of the project.

“The convertible loan facility from CAMCO will enable us to drill and test additional slim wells to determine the capacity of the reservoir,” said Dr Banda. “The addition of dispatchable, sustainable energy to the grid will be a positive step towards Zambia meeting its development targets, while the secondary uses of geo-thermal energy should attract investment into the district.”

Southern Province’s first-ever industrial park is earmarked to be located in Monze district and it would rely on the utilisation of geo-thermal energy, as well as the steamy water which would be a by-product of the power generation process.

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