INVICTUS Energy, the Australian firm searching for oil and gas in Muzarabani, says it has started several initiatives that are already positively impacting the local communities and may transform the area entirely in the future in into a modern settlement.
Managing director, Scott McMillan, said in an interview the initiatives had created direct employment for the locals and indirect economic activity for local businesses, especially during the firm’s seismic campaign.
The Australia Stock Exchange-listed company recruited more than 100 locals for its seismic campaign (gathering sub-surface vibrations), while more jobs are expected to be created during exploration well sinking.
The subsurface vibrations from the seismic study are used in the oil and gas exploration to pinpoint locations that have the highest potential to host hydro-carbons, hence increasing the chance of successful discovery.
Invictus lauded the support it has received from the Government, which declared Zimbabwe “Open for Business”, saying this has spurred progress towards a major exploration exercise in Zimbabwe in more than three decades.
“We have also been implementing our corporate social responsibility programme as well and that will continue and also be expanded this year,” MacMillan said.
However, he said the project was still in the exploration phase and future socio-economic activities in the area depended on drilling results and whether commercial discovery was made.
The Muzarabani prospect is considered to be the largest undrilled conventional oil and gas prospect onshore Africa and could host prospective resources of about 9,25 trillion cubic feet and 294 million barrels of gas condensate.
“If we do make a commercial discovery then it will definitely have a huge positive impact in the community with the development of the project,” he said, adding opportunities would entail construction jobs for the facility and pipeline as well production roles.
The company is also focused on providing water, education and health initiatives, which have been guided by the local community input gathered when it undertook its environmental impact assessment study.
The local leadership told this publication during a recent visit to the area that they expected Invictus to prioritise locals in recruitment for jobs, especially those that do not demand skilled expertise, and for the company to invest in key infrastructure like dams, roads and bridges, education and health facilities.
“We did not like to be like an NGO (non-governmental organisation) that goes in with prescriptive programmes, but actually (wanted to) understand what the community really needs,” MacMillan said in an interview.
Additionally, MacMillan said commercial discovery of oil/gas in Muzarabani would bring about significant downstream benefits through indirect downstream industries and new jobs.
At national scale, success in the exploration programme would result in significant royalties, taxes and production or profit share for the Government, which would spur development in the country.
Invictus Energy has already recorded significant milestones and encouraging study findings since acquiring and further processing a US$30 million data set from French petroleum giant Mobil, which was gathered back in the mid 1990s.
The study by Invictus is only the second in more than 30 years since the one by Mobil, which was at a reconnaissance scale in terms of line spacing (15-20 kilometres) apart from looking at the basin configuration.
“Our spacing is 1,5 km apart and designed to identify specific drilling targets. Our survey was done with vibroseis units as the source whereas Mobil used dynamite, (this is) first survey since 1990 and technology has moved considerably since then,” MacMillan said.
Key milestones the company has recorded thus far include a petroleum exploration development and production agreement (PEDPA) signed with the Government.
President Mnangagwa said at the signing ceremony that the PEDPA represented major strides in Zimbabwe’s efforts to tap into its oil and gas deposits, which is a new territory in the country’s mining sector.’
Invictus also managed to renew its Muzarabani special grant licence by a further 3 years and has completed an environmental impact study.
Further, Invictus has also signed a drilling contract with British firm Cluff Energy and inked drilling rig agreement with Exalo, agreements which have seen it remain on course to meet its target of commencing drilling in the first half this year.
“We are gearing up for the drilling programme now and the long leads (wellheads and casing) have been manufactured and getting ready to be shipped to our warehouse outside Harare over the next few months and then to the field once everything is ready and the rig is on its way,” he said.
MacMillan said the company would possibly start receiving the key equipment for the exploration drilling programme at the end of next month, with the test well sinking planned before the end of the first half of this year.
The local leadership told this publication during a visit to the area that they expected the project to prioritise residents on non-skilled jobs and to help develop key infrastructure.
“Jobs should be made available first to
locals while other development projects should come through as a result of this initiative. We welcome this project, but we also have a lot of aspirations.
“We must not repeat what happened in Chiadzwa where people from other places were first to benefit (diamond rush), and go away to develop and build nice houses in plush suburbs like Borrowdale in Harare,” said Chief Muzarabani.
According to Chief Hwata, whose chiefdom also borders the project area “The project should develop the area, we expect to get better residential houses, roads and bridges among other things. This project must succeed and we can see it is making good progress,” he said. – Business Weekly