Energy potential of Mozambique’s Maniamba Basin

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Panoramic view of Michunwa outcrop, Maniamba Basin, Mozambique Credit: Wits University

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Panoramic view of Michunwa outcrop, Maniamba Basin, Mozambique Credit: Wits University

In the ever-expanding search for energy resources, a new study has emerged in Mozambique’s Maniamba Basin. A team led by Nelson Namuthol, Ph.D. student from the University of the Witwatersrand and his team of scientists from around the world, shared a show Article Published in South African Journal of Geology Mozambique’s Maniamba Basin could be a large source of natural gas.

An impressive 8,000,000 km2, Maniamba basin is a geological wonder. Its layers, ranging from Permian to early Triassic rocks, hold the secrets of Earth’s ancient past, now thought to be ripe with organic matter capable of generating natural gas. This revelation is a beacon of energy opportunities in a world that prefers sustainable sources.

Nelson and his research team undertook a meticulous expedition, analyzing samples from four outcrops in the basin. Using sophisticated techniques such as rock-ewell pyrolysis, they understood the organic richness of different types of rocks, including shale, clay, sandstone and siltstone.

Rockwell pyrolysis is a technique widely used in the petroleum industry to assess the hydrocarbon potential of rocks, if they contain oil or gas, where these rocks may have been deposited, and whether they are mature enough to produce oil or gas.

„The most challenging part was getting the right lab to do the rock level analysis, and I had to go to the University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil,” says Nelson.

Using this technique, Nelson and his team found „good to excellent” total organic carbon content in rocks in the Maniamba Basin, a key indicator of a rock’s potential to generate hydrocarbons. At the heart of this valuable energy is kerogen, the organic material in rocks that, under the right thermal conditions, can turn into natural gas and oil.

The study found a mixed presence of mainly types III and IV kerogen types, suggesting that the organic matter is mainly of terrestrial origin. It points to a once lush landscape with vegetation typical of the Gondwana ecosystem, now a source of potential gas reserves.

The transition from organic-rich rock to hydrocarbons is a matter of maturation. „Our ability to infer that maturity levels are somehow affected by ignition intrusions based on a small sample size is very exciting!” Nelson exclaims.

Research shows that the basin’s rocks are mature and mature, primarily influenced by tectonic activity and the proximity of igneous intrusions (formations that occur when magma from beneath the Earth’s surface cools and solidifies before coming to the surface). This level of maturity, combined with analysis of the type of organic matter, indicates the potential of the basin to generate gas instead of oil, an important insight for future exploration strategies.

Drawing parallels across Karoo sites, this study links the Maniyamba Basin organic features to other Karoo sites spanning from Mozambique to Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. This not only highlights the basin’s potential, but also links it to the broader geological story of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana.

The discovery of the potential of the Maniamba basin is a significant advance in energy exploration, although it is only the first step. This research underscores the need for further investigations to fully uncover the basin’s secrets. Advanced studies using a combination of geochemical and geological analyzes are necessary to map the pathway from energy to production.

As Mozambique stands on the brink of a new era in energy exploration, the Maniamba Basin exploration shows the power of international cooperation in unlocking the Earth’s hidden treasures. For a world struggling with energy challenges, the basin offers a glimpse of hope, a promise for a sustainable future fueled by the very rocks beneath our feet.

„Rock assessment data alone can’t fully tell us about potential sources of oil and gas, so we need to use other methods,” says Nelson.

„In my future research, I plan to incorporate several techniques, including studying the types of organic matter in rocks, studying pollen and spores, looking at chemical fossils, and analyzing the elements present in the Maniamba Basin.

„In addition, it can be very important to determine the age of rock layers by looking at when certain microfossils appear and disappear.”

More information:
NE Nhamutole et al., Permian-Triassic strata from Permian-Triassic strata, Mozambique: a preliminary characterization, South African Journal of Geology (2024) DOI: 10.25131/sajg.127.0013

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