International helium production company, Helium One, has announced the commencement of its exploration drilling programme in Rukwa, Tanzania.

The drilling began on the 12th of June at its flagship project. The Rukwa Project is a large-scale, globally unique, high-grade, primary helium project in Tanzania.

With the potential to become a strategic asset in resolving a supply-constrained market, a report from SRK Consulting stated a ‘Best Estimate’ un-risked prospective recoverable helium resource of 138 Bcf (2U/P50).

The report also found helium measured in surface seeps at up to 10.6% He, becoming the largest listed primary helium deposit in the world.

The exploration programme itself consists of a three well system targeting shallow trap structures to a maximum depth of 1200m.

Exploration drilling itself involves identifying elevated levels of helium in mud by using micro gas chromatography and mini mass spectrometry techniques. Using wireline logs, the team will be able to identify reservoir and seal units and to confirm pay zones.

A Drill Stem Testing unit will them attempt to transport the helium gas samples to the surface.

Initial drilling commenced at the Tai prospect, a faulted three-way dip closure concurrent with a gravity high. Due to the presence of stacked targets within a well-defined structural closure, the prospect was chosen as the company’s first well.

Focusing on stacked closures gives Helium One the opportunity to identify multiple zones with the highest quality seal potential to assist in the planning of subsequent wells.

Speaking about the project, David Minchin, CEO, Helium One, said, “We are very excited to have commenced exploration drilling, continuing the advancement of the world-class Rukwa project.”

“The exploration programme is the culmination of five years of dedicated work with three holes testing three different styles of trap.”

These three different styles of trap can provide essential information when it comes to de-risking the company’s portfolio of prospects across the basin.

Minchin continued, “Each well will take roughly one month to complete with lessons learnt from the first well applied to refine and de-risk drilling of subsequent wells.”

“Establishing a drill programme in the midst of a global pandemic is not without challenges and we are thankful to all Mitchell Drilling and Helium One team for their hard work in bringing this project to fruition.”

Helium One’s maiden drilling campaign is the culmination of many years of study, growing from early work conducted with the University of Oxford Noble Gas Group to encompass data sets from Airborne Gravity Gradiometry, Macro-Seep sampling and analyses, soil gas surveys, satellite mapping and recent addition infill 2D seismic.

With drilling of the first well expected to take around a month to complete, the company are expecting valuable information about the subsurface.