Aussie firm ready to start oil, gas drilling The exploration for gas and oil prospects by Invictus Energy, an Australian-listed company, has already seen the community start to reap benefits from employment and social corporate responsibility projects.

Golden Sibanda

INVICTUS Energy, the Australian firm searching for oil and gas in Muzarabani, will start drilling the first test well at the Mukuyu-1 site by the end of this month or the first week of October to find out if the geological domes found in seismic surveys contain natural gas and oil condensates.

Company officials told journalists during a tour of the site in Mbire yesterday that the process of assembling the drilling rig equipment was about 98 percent complete.

The drilling exercise would be an historic moment for Zimbabwe, the first such exercise in the country, given its potential to transform the economy through energy self-sufficiency, growth of exports, job creation and development of downstream industries.

While suitable geological structures that can trap gas and condensate generated from buried organic matter in an ancient inlet of the Indian Ocean are known to exist, the critical point has now been reached to see if these domes deep below the surface did trap the organics and if they then managed to contain them for scores of million of years.

Invictus contracted Polish-headquartered firm Exalo Drilling SA to undertake the exploration drilling programme, which saw the company bringing to Zimbabwe its rig number 202 from Songo Songo in Tanzania where the equipment had been used for similar work.

GeoAssociates is a major shareholder of Invictus and its Zimbabwean director Paul Chimbodza said the petroleum exploration drilling firm used 30-tonne trucks numbering 115 to transport the equipment to be used for the exploration drilling programme, which is expected to take eight weeks on the first well and about six weeks on the second.

Exalo will drill up to 3,5 kilometres deep well at the Mukuyu-1 site at a cost of US$16 million after which the equipment would be relocated to Muzarabani for the second planned test well drilling exercise to a shorter depth of 1,5km at the Baobab well site.

Mr Chimbodza said the second shallower test well would cost the company a further US$10 million.

Invictus proceeded to bring the equipment for test well drilling into Zimbabwe after earlier study results of data collected from the oil and gas exploration field and evaluated by independent experts showed that the sites possessed significant potential for gas and condensates.

The planned drilling programme comes after Invictus recently received an updated Independent Report from United Kingdom based energy consulting firm ERCE estimating substantial resource potential at its Cabora Bassa (Muzarabani-Mbire) oil and gas project.

ERCE estimates the potential resource of the Mukuyu prospect at a combined 566 billion cubic metres (20 trillion cubic feet) and and 134 billion litres (845 million barrels) of conventional gas condensate, or about 683 billion litres (4,3 billion barrels) of oil equivalent.

This marks a 2,7 fold increase on a barrel of oil equivalent basis to the 2019 independent assessment by Getech Group, which estimated Mukuyu (then named Mzarabani).

Mr Chimbodza said even if the drilling exercise was not successful, that would not mean the end of the road for the project, stressing that the company would evaluate the technical data from the drilling programme and proceed to further investigate other sites for potential existence of hydrocarbon deposits. 

“It is inherent in our business that you can find or you don’t find,” he said. “So, if we don’t find anything, there are technical ways in which you plug off the well. That is also contained within our environmental management plan.

“But that is not the end of the story for us, we earlier on indicated that we have just concluded an agreement that will be extending our search area so we will continue looking at other potential sites; costly exercise, but that is the name of the game.

“Speaking from a geological perspective, the positive results for me as a geologist, are not just us encountering hydrocarbons, but it is the depth of (technical) information that we get from this 3,5km to 4km well. 

“As we drill, we have got these special pieces of equipment that we send down the hole that give us a lot of technical advice and technical information, which information feeds into the geological database, so it is not a lost cause if we do not find anything.”

Invictus, Mr Chimbodza said, has over the last four years, invested a total of US$16 million on the project, “which brings us to the stage now where we have made a decision to drill the two wells, the cost of drilling Mukuyu-1 is another US$16 million.

“We will drill that to 3,5km thereabouts,” he said. “Our second upcoming well, called Baobab, it’s a shallower well and we will drill that to about 1,5km at an all-in cost of about US$10 million. These are exploration wells, they are not production wells.

“These are wells that we use to ascertain the resource endowment in the ground. Ince those wells give us positive results, we will move into what we call basin appraisal. 

“So we are now doing more ancillary wells around the general area to upgrade the resource numbers and also to quantify and get an indication on the quality of the resource and by the time you are down with your appraisal the cost is up to roughly about US$100 million thereabouts.”

Invictus country manager Barry Meikle said the exploration drilling “was anticipated to take about eight weeks and then we have two or three weeks to move the rig to the other site and that site should take a little bit less, about six weeks.”

 He said the company was recently awarded a carbon credits project, in conjunction with the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, to be implemented over 30 years in the forests of Gwayi-Sikumi-Ngamo in Matabeleland North. 

He said the aim was to make Invictus a carbon neutral exploration company, “from cradle to grave”, meaning the company would undertake an initiative to grow forests, as part of the firm’s environmental sustainability programme.

“So, we are doing this project to provide our own carbon credits to our exploration process and in anticipation of production. So, it is a collaborative contract with the Forestry Commission, 50-50 with them, they will benefit, we will benefit and so will the country,” he said.

The Australian firm has also invested significantly into water infrastructure projects in Muzarabani and Mbire, specifically targeting local communities and health institutions in the province.

“It is a long term project and I think it underpins our long term commitment to Zimbabwe,” Invictus vice chairman Joe Mutizwa, who was among the senior company officials at the event, said.

He said because of the project “Zimbabwe would be a very different place going forward.”

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