Gas prospect a key boost for Invictus Energy as it gets ready to drill second exploration well

Invictus Energy, the company exploring for gas in Zimbabwe, says mud gas analysis confirms the presence of gas deposits, providing encouragement for the company ahead of the drilling of a second exploration well in the third quarter of this year.

Ground conditions forced Invictus to abandon operations at its first drilling site, Mukuyu-1, late last year, preventing the company at the time from using the more preferred wire-line logging method – sending tools down the hole to bring up the sample it needed to confirm gas. But now, by analysing the mud brought up during exploration drilling – the complementary “mud logging” method – the company says it can confirm condensate gas ratios estimated at between 30 to 135 barrels per million cubic feet.

“Results from the mudgas compositional analysis definitively proves the presence of hydrocarbons in multiple reservoir pay zones at Mukuyu-1 consistent with the wireline log interpretation, fluorescence, and elevated mudgas readings,” says Invictus MD Scott Macmillan.

As a bonus, the company has also discovered another valuable gas, helium, which is in demand in technology, used in fibre optics and semiconductors.

“Furthermore, the presence of helium gas in commercial concentrations in multiple reservoir units is comparable with global helium producing fields and provides an additional high value byproduct,” Macmillan says.

Does it mean we will soon have local gas?

The confirmation does not mean Zimbabwe will immediately start producing gas commercially. An appraisal well would need to be drilled first, before any production drilling can happen. Typically, it takes years from the time a resource is confirmed to the time that it can be brought up. Mozambique discovered gas in 2010 and only exported its first LNG in 2022, with most of the sites expected to start full production in 2024.

Invictus is already moving to a new well. The company has recently raised nearly US$7 million from shareholders on the Australian Stock Exchange to fund Mukuyu-2, its second exploration well. This month, Invictus expects to start a 2D seismic campaign, which allows it to target the best drilling areas.

Exalo, the European firm hired to drill the Mukuyu-1 well, agreed to keep its drill on site for another 12 months, encouraged by the potential of a find. Beyond Mukuyu-1 and Mukuyu-2, Invictus also has Baobab-1 as another potential well site.

Low depths, high risk

Exploration drilling is notorious for its high risk for companies such as Invictus. Over recent years, the chances of successfully finding gas or oil, especially in new exploration areas such as Zimbabwe, are less than 10 out of every 100 wells drilled.

“In frontier basins, only about 10 to 15% of wells find hydrocarbons with less than 10% being commercial,” according to geophysicist Alan Foum. 

Namibia went through 30 dry holes over 40 years of exploration – led by companies such as Exxon, Total, Petrobas and Tullow – before its first offshore oil find in 2022. Onshore, Canada’s ReconAfrica failed to find commercial deposits from its first well in the Kavango basin. South Africa drilled over 200 unsuccessful well before its first discovery. In Uganda, 116 wells were drilled between 2008 and 2014, with 22 discoveries being made. Uganda expects to start pumping oil in 2025, decades after exploration began.

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