New oil, gas exploration blocks up for grabs under new NZ policy
By Pattrick Smellie
Feb. 9 (BusinessDesk) – The government is seeking bids from oil and gas explorers for 25 pre-determined onshore and offshore exploration blocks under a new policy that limits the number and location of new exploration sites.
The policy’s stated aim is to ensure explorers target what the New Zealand Petroleum and Mineral arm of the Ministry of Economic Development regards as the most prospective block. The new approach also allows the government to avoid areas of strong opposition to petroleum mining.
None of the 25 blocks on offer are for offshore Northland or East Cape territories, despite both being identified by government scientific efforts to be worthy of exploration. Maori opposition to deep-sea mining caused disruption to seismic surveying work undertaken early last year for the Brazilian oil major, Petrobras, in the Raukumara Basin, off East Cape in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
On offer are blocks covering approximately 40,285 square kilometres of offshore seabed and approximately 5,704 square kilometres of land in Waikato, Taranaki, Tasman, the West Coast and Southland. Land listed under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 will be excluded from exploration permitting.
The offshore blocks comprise one area of the Great South Basin to the south and further offshore than the area where Shell and its Austrian partner, OMV, are exploring, two are in the Canterbury Bight, near the Barque and Carrack-Caravel prospects, where New Zealand Oil & Gas, Origin Energy and American mid-sized player Anadarko have exploration rights.
One block is offshore Wairarapa, while two are south of Wellington, and a further seven are earmarked in the offshore Taranaki basin, New Zealand’s best-explored oil and gas field.
There are a further seven prospects offered onshore in Taranaki, all in areas where oil and gas has previously been discovered in commercial quantities and is still being produced.
While the blocks are in draft form at this stage, while consultations with iwi and local government occur, the intention is to offer them from April 27 until Sept. 21, with announcements on successful bids scheduled for Dec. 21.
In the past, New Zealand ran a reactive “priority-in-time” allocation method where companies could apply to explore any area in New Zealand at any time, with only a five day window for competitive interest to be registered by other companies potentially interested in exploring the same area.