Australian junior Invictus Energy has chosen a drilling rig to spud a trailblazing wildcat in Zimbabwe in 2022, and is close to securing Cluff Energy Africa as its partner to help fund the exploration campaign.

The Muzarabani-1 probe is due to spud in May next year and, if successful, a follow-up probe will be drilled.

According to Invictus, the structure holds prospective resources of 8.2 trillion cubic feet of gas and 247 million barrels of condensate.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed with Poland-based Exalo Drilling for the potential two-well campaign, with a binding agreement expected to be inked in the new year.

Invictus will deploy the Exalo No. 202 rig in northern Zimbabwe as soon as that unit completes its work for PanAfrican Energy on the Songo Songo gas field in Tanzania.

“Exalo personnel recently completed a visit to Zimbabwe to review the potential drilling locations and logistics options,” said the operator.

Invictus is processing and interpreting recently acquired seismic data to refine the Muzarabani-1 well location and design, while also maturing additional prospects to target with a potential second well.

Under the MoU, the Perth-based operator must exercise the option for the additional well by 15 February 2022.

Commenting on the MoU, Invictus managing director Scott Macmillan said: “We will now proceed to secure the remaining long lead items and services required to commence drilling operations.”

“We will benefit immensely from inheriting an active drilling rig and crew and a modest mobilisation from Tanzania to the project area. The company plans to announce the final drilling locations and further details of the exploration programme in the new year.”

Invictus has also executed a farm-in option agreement with Cluff Energy Africa for the two-well campaign, with the London-based player funding 33.33% of the costs for a 25% non-operating interest in the asset.

Under the terms of the non-binding agreement, Cluff must exercise the option by 31 March 2022 to enter into a binding farm-in agreement and a joint operating agreement and obtain the necessary funding.

Invictus and Cluff will also investigate options to mitigate carbon emissions from any potential development project including carbon capture and storage.

The move by Cluff is part of a process underway to assemble a portfolio of African oil and gas exploration assets with the intent of raising further capital in early 2022.

Macmillan described Cluff as “a like-minded partner and a close cultural fit and their team has an outstanding track record of making and monetising discoveries in Africa.”

Cluff chief executive Algy Cluff – a veteran explorer and a well-known face in upstream circles - addded: “We view this asset as a rare high-quality but low-cost opportunity that has world class scale. We believe it will form a key pillar in the portfolio of assets that we are currently assembling.”

In 2020, the company was awarded conditional petroleum licences offshore Sierra Leone covering blocks 23, 24, 25, 36, 37, 38, 39, 54, 55, 56, 57, 74, 75, 94 and 95.

“I am also excited to be bringing the Cluff group back to Zimbabwe having enjoyed previous success in the resources sector in the country with the discovery and development of the largest gold mine in the country at Freda Rebecca.”

Muzarabani is located in Special Grant Permit 4571 in northern Zimbabwe’s Cabora Bassa basin.

The Muzarabani-1 well will be drilled to a planned minimum depth of 3000 metres or until basement is hit, while a follow up probe will be drilled to a depth of at least 1500 metres.

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