By Chris Lang
Invictus Energy Limited is an Australian oil and gas exploration company. The company owns 80% of the Cabora Bassa Basin project in northern Zimbabwe. This week, Invictus announced that the Cabora Bassa project “could be one of the first cradle to grave carbon neutral oil and gas projects in the world (on a Scope 1 and Scope 2 basis)”. Invictus makes this claim on the back of a 30-year deal with the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe to develop the Ngamo-Gwayi-Sikumi REDD+ project.
Invictus will pay US$1.5 million for the REDD project, which Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission put out to international tender in February 2022. Invictus has created a new division called Miombo Forest Carbon Investments to develop and manage the REDD project. A subsidiary of MFCI, Ngamo-Gwayi-Sikumi Carbon Investments will operate and administer the REDD project. Profits from the sale of carbon offsets are to be shared 50:50 with the Forestry Commission.
Invictus states that the REDD project, which covers a total of 301,565 hectares, is “part of the company’s sustainable plan to manage emissions”.
Predictably enough, Invictus says nothing about what will happen to the estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of fossil gas that it hopes to extract. Obviously it will be burned and will worsen the climate crisis.
This is yet another example of the oil and gas industry using REDD to attempt to greenwash its ongoing destruction of the planet.
Cabora Bassa Basin project
In a presentation in September 2021, Scott Macmillan, Managing Director at Invictus, describes the Cabora Bassa Basin as “one of the last undrilled oil and gas basins in Africa”.
Invictus plans to start drilling at the Muzarabani Prospect in August 2022. Macmillan says the well is “the largest undrilled conventional oil and gas prospect on the continent”.
Mobil explored the area about 30 years ago but decided not to drill because the deposit was mainly gas rather than oil, and the market for gas back then was smaller. Macmillan says,
“We are now in a significantly different position where there is a significant number of ways to monetise gas and also a number of infrastructure options to get it to market as well.”
Macmillan makes no mention of the climate crisis in his presentation.
The Hwange Sanyathi Biodiversity Corridor
A five-year called the Hwange Sanyathi Biodiversity Corridor was completed in 2020. WWF ran the project which was funded with a US$5.64 million loan from the World Bank to the government of Zimbabwe. Most of the rest of the money for the US$22.7 million project came from the government of Zimbabwe.
One of the project activities was to “Build capacity for carbon payments, i.e. REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)”. The REDD activities were focussed on the Ngamo and Sikumi forest reserves.
Here’s how the World Bank’s Completion and Results Report describes the project’s work on REDD, under the sub-heading “Emissions reduction pilot project development”:
A project development design was developed for a REDD+ scheme for the Ngamo and Sikumi forests. The avoided carbon losses offer significant carbon sequestration value and financial gains to the community for ongoing forest management, if the carbon trade is completed, reinforcing the benefits associated with elevated forest management. The annual net avoided emissions is estimated to be 238 550 tCO2e.
According to Invictus,
The NGS REDD+ project has the potential to generate more than 30 million carbon credits over its initial 30-year life (subject to independent accreditation), based on the biomass assessment completed in the pilot REDD+ project in Ngamo and Sikumi and comparable REDD+ projects operating in the region.
Although the World Bank report does not include the Gwayi forest, which covers an area of 144,265 hectares, Invictus is anticipating nearly four times as many carbon credits as the World Bank estimated in its Completion and Results Report.
The Ngamo-Gwayi-Sikumi REDD project is another example of what’s wrong with carbon trading. An oil and gas exploration corporation gets to continue business as usual while claiming to be “carbon neutral”. Far from helping to address the climate crisis, REDD is greenwashing the fossil fuel industry.