The Sunday Mail
Oliver Kazunga recently in Muzarabani
INVICTUS Energy, which is exploring for oil and gas in Muzarabani and Mbire districts, says it has pulled all the stops to eliminate technical glitches that previously curtailed extraction of a fluid sample to fulfil regulatory requirements for a commercial discovery.
In January this year, the Australia-headquartered firm, announced that it had found oil and gas reserves on its 7 000-hectare prospective area, also known as the Cabora Bassa Basin, after drilling was conducted on its first well — Mukuyu-1 prospect — towards the end of last year.
However, a commercial discovery could not be declared due to technical hitches that meant a fluid sample could not be extracted from the well, whose results had tested positive for oil and gas presence.
The Mukuyu-1 well, where a depth of nearly four kilometres had been drilled, gobbling up US$20 million, is seven kilometres away from the second well, Mukuyu-2 prospect, whose drilling is set to commence this week.
Seismic studies done for the Muzarabani and Mbire oil and gas field have revealed potential production of around 283,2 billion cubic metres (8,2 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas, which is a substantial amount, and almost 40 million cubic metres (around 250 million barrels) of oil condensate.
Speaking during a media tour of the Mukuyu-2 wellsite, where a drill rig has already been mounted ahead of drilling, Geo Associates managing director Mr Paul Chimbodza, whose company is Invictus’ local partner, said: “We have learnt our technical lessons from our experiences on Mukuyu-1 and a lot of those lessons have been used by the technical team here to plan the implementation of Mukuyu-2 so that we minimise any further technical hiccups.
“So, the plan for Mukuyu-1, we know there are hydrocarbons in there, but because of the state of that well, we had to shut it down.
“It’s an environmental requirement. We had to shut it down and going forward, we are here at Mukuyu-2 and we hope that we’ll replicate the positive results from Mukuyu-1.
“And learning from those lessons, we would like to put in place early monetisation opportunities for that project as we need the resources to do a number of things. They include electricity.”
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.
Mr Chimbodza said their project is in sync with Government’s aspirations of driving the country towards an upper middle-income society by 2030. The fresh drilling campaign at Mukuyu-2 well, which will gobble up US$20 million, is expected to be completed within 60 days of commencement.
“If we do get positive results at Mukuyu-2, we would like to come in with a proof of concept and monetisation initiatives, where we can show that the resources underneath there can actually be utilised in the form and one of the low-hanging fruits for us is gas-to-electricity and we are looking at that. The country needs electricity.”
Through the project, Invictus hopes the country would become a net exporter of power to Sadc.
Presently, the region is haunted by energy supply challenges due to lack of investment in new power generation projects over the years, with South Africa having been experiencing rolling blackouts since 2003.
“The Southern African Power Pool is headquartered in Harare and it gives us an opportunity to generate power in the country and power shortage is not an issue of Zimbabwe alone. There is power shortage and our crystal borehole vision is that we’ll be able to generate enough electricity from here to the region,” said Mr Chimbodza.
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.
“We talk more with emphasis on gas because we believe we have got more of gas than oil; our latest results point to three main products, which are your gas, light oil and the surprise product (helium) that we picked up from our testing and it is a highly priced gas,” he said.
Invictus country manager Mr Barry Meikle said the project employs about 120 employees, half of them Zimbabweans.
“We have about 120 people now, of whom about half are local Zimbabweans of various skill sets. We have a lot of expatriates, of course. It’s an industry (oil and gas exploration) we don’t have here in Zimbabwe, so we have to bring in a lot of skills.
“We have 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.
Even though Invictus is still at exploration stage, as part of its corporate social responsibility initiatives, the company has sunk boreholes, is rehabilitating roads, building health facilities and schools across the two districts.
In an interview at the Mukuyu-2 wellsite, Chief Hwata said the traditional leadership in the district is grateful that Invictus is conducting its activities within the confines of the law, as well as respecting cultural norms and values in Muzarabani and Mbire districts.
“We are excited that Invictus is conducting its activities in a manner that is culturally accepted in our communities and without undermining our authority as traditional leaders (Chiefs Hwata, Muzarabani, Matsiure and Chitsungo) here in Muzarabani and Mbire districts.
“The company has also brought development to the district, as we are seeing roads being upgraded. It is also employing locals and giving contracts to local contractors for services such as security,” he said.