The payoff has arrived for Invictus Energy (ASX:IVZ) and its shareholders with the announcement that its Mukuyu-1 well had confirmed a working hydrocarbon system in Zimbabwe’s Cabora Bassa Basin sending its shares soaring 157% to 27c.

There is good reason for this crypto-like performance.

Mukuyu-1, the company’s very first exploration well to test this highly prospective gas play, reported fluorescence and elevated gas shows of up to 65 times above background levels in the Upper Angwa primary target from a depth of about 3,070m.

For the uninitiated, that’s a pretty good sign that gas is present in the reservoir, though how much and how well it can flow are questions for drill stem or flow testing.

And Invictus might only just be getting started. Gas shows were not measured at depths shallower than about 2,820m, which pretty much includes the Dande, Forest and the majority of the Pebbly Arkose horizons, due to multiple equipment failures.

With elevated gas shows and resistivity detected in the shallower Pebbly Arkose formation, there’s a very real chance that gas shows were also present in these three shallower areas, the company simply couldn’t tell because its equipment decided to flake out.

It gets better. Those background gas readings? They have been increasing with heavier hydrocarbon components observed as the well gets deeper following the repair of the mud gas chromatograph system.

Mukuyu-1 is currently at a depth of 3,086m, giving it another 414m to go before it reaches its planned total depth of 3,500m.

Should this increase in background gas readings continue, we could be looking at some pretty hefty levels of gas saturation and possibly hydrocarbon liquids or condensates that are almost always welcome given they are a valuable product as well.

Invictus plans to complete drilling before carrying out a comprehensive wireline logging program to provide a proper evaluation of the results.

Invictus has gas acreage all sewn up

Should wireline logging and possibly any drill stem or flow testing confirm Mukuyu as a gas (and condensate) discovery, it will open up the entire Cabora Bassa Basin as a hydrocarbon province and substantially de-risk the second well, Baobab-1.

Usually, this will spark a rush to pick up acreage in the target oil and gas fairway, except for one small problem – or a big one depending on your point of view.

In its confidence about the prospectivity of the Cabora Bassa Basin, Invictus has sewn up the entire conventional oil and gas play fairway after reaching a deal with the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe.

To understand why the company appears so confident about the prospects of the Cabora Bassa, one needs to take a trip down memory lane.

Mukuyu was first defined by Mobil (now part of ExxonMobil) back during the 1990s when its 2D seismic, gravity and aeromagnetic data defined the Mzarabani (now Mukuyu) anticline feature.

However, the oil and gas giant chose to relinquish the project after its assessment indicated that the find was likely to be gas-bearing rather than a giant oil field.

Investors of our time would think they were mad, but it is important to note that there was no gas market in southern Africa at that time.

The project lay fallow until the company picked up the project in 2018 and the rest as they say was history.

Since then, the company has reprocessed Mobil’s data – using all the latest technology developed since the 1990s – and shot its own high quality 2D seismic in late 2021 which built further on the old data.

It was certainly enough for the Invictus to commit to a two-well program and while it is still too early to be definitive about Mukuyu being a gas discovery, the high (and increasing) background gas levels are certainly promising.


Should the discovery be proved up, the timing could not possibly be better for Invictus.

Natural gas has become an insanely hot commodity in the last two years and while a Zimbabwe project is unlikely to be able to access the European market, it will still find a ready market in South Africa.

South Africa is keen to replace its coal-fired generators with gas – at least as an interim solution – and will be more than happy to snap up gas from its neighbours rather than go to the expense of importing liquefied natural gas.

This is especially true given the need to construct LNG receiving and regasification facilities and also the competition for LNG cargoes.

Far better to run a pipeline to ensure secure and reliable gas supplies.

As such, a confirmed discovery at Mukuyu is more than likely to see rapid development.