Invictus set to start Mukuyu-2 well drilling
Senior Business Reporter
INVICTUS Energy, the Australian company which is exploring for oil and gas at the Cabora Bassa Basin in Muzarabani and Mbire districts in Mashonaland Central, will start drilling its second exploratory well, Mukuyu-2, the next few days spending another US$20 million.
Drilling the Mukuyu-2 well follows that of Mukuyu-1. However, the site was abandoned towards the end of last year after the company experienced technical glitches, despite results having confirmed the presence of hydrocarbons, but without the fluid sample.
In January this year, Invictus announced that it had found natural gas and oil reserves in north-east Zimbabwe, although technical glitches meant the company could not extract a fluid sample to fulfil regulatory requirements to declare a commercial discovery.
In an interview after a tour of the Mukuyu-2 site by the media yesterday, Geo Associates managing director, Mr Paul Chimbodza, whose company is Invictus’ local shareholding partner, said they were confident the oil and gas project would be successfully implemented.
The Mukuyu-2 well site where the Exallo Rig has already been mounted is about 7km from the Mukuyu-1 prospect, which had been drilled nearly 4km deep.
“We drilled Mukuyu-1 and we interrogated the results from Mukuyu-1 and those results are saying to us ‘we should go to the next stage’.
“That’s why we are going to be spending another US$20 million on Mukuyu-2. So, it speaks to the level of confidence if you undertake to outlay such an expenditure.
“Our spud date (date of starting drilling) is 17 September. So we are a few days away. We expect that we should be done with this well from the date of start over a period of about six weeks, barring any unforeseen incidents,” he said.
The Cabora Bassa Basin, said Mr Chimbodza, is the largest untested structure of its kind in Africa and Invictus is upbeat of a commercial discovery given the results obtained from the Mukuyu-1 well.
“In context, other jurisdictions of the Eastern Africa continent had to drill more than 200 wells before they could hit bonanza on the first well and for us to hit positive results in our first well, it speaks volumes about the prospect and we are still progressing and we are very upbeat about the project,” he said.
Recently, the Australian company also announced that additional samples have reaffirmed light oil, gas-condensate and helium on the Mukuyu-1 well.
The successful commercial discovery of oil and gas in Zimbabwe would make the country energy self-sufficient, create employment, promote economic growth and development on account of the significant potential for value chain linkages.
A major initial industry after commercial discoveries of natural gas would be gas power stations, which can be built quickly and are more efficient than coal thermal plants and have only about half the carbon footprint.
Mr Chimbodza said their project was in tandem with the Government’s aspirations of driving the country towards an upper middle income society by 2030 as one of the key enablers is adequate supply of energy.
“And this project will also go a long way in not only making Zimbabwe energy-sufficient but we hope that Zimbabwe would actually be a net exporter of power into the region rather than a net importer.
“The Southern African Power Pool is headquartered in Harare and it gives us an opportunity to generate power in the country and power shortages is not an issue of Zimbabwe alone, there is a regional power shortage and our crystal borehole vision is that we’ll be able to generate enough electricity from here to the region,” he said.
The successful implementation of the project also provides a leeway for Invictus to convert the extracted gas into other forms of fuel such as diesel, kerosene, paraffin, and waxes, among others
“We talk more with emphasis on gas because we believe that we have got more of gas than oil; our latest result point to three main products which is your gas, light oil, and the surprise product (helium) that we picked up from our testing and it is a highly priced gas,” said Mr Chimbodza.
Invictus country manager, Mr Barry Meikle, said they have about 120 employees at the site, with half of them being Zimbabweans.
He said they have some expatriates since oil and gas exploitation had never been done in Zimbabwe, hence the need to bring in some skills.
“We have got some graduates and interns. So we are trying to slowly transfer skills to Zimbabweans. “Hopefully, with time we will be able to have a fully Zimbabwean crew. It will take time but that’s our hope,” he said.
In a separate interview, Chief Hwata said as traditional leaders they were excited that Invictus was undertaking its activities in the communities in a culturally expected way, and without undermining the authority of traditional leaders.
The traditional leaders whose areas host the oil and gas in Muzarabani and Mbire districts are Chiefs Hwata, Muzarabani, Matsiure and Chitsungo.
“Invictus has also brought development in the district as we are seeing roads being developed. The company is also employing locals and giving contracts to local contractors for services such as security,” said Chief Hwata.
In the 1990s, Mobil, a France-headquartered company, carried out initial seismic surveys but decided not to follow it up.
However, using more modern data processing techniques, Invictus reprocessed the data and found strong evidence that the underlying geological structures had the domes and traps that could indicate oil and gas presence in Muzarabani.