EPA gives early nod on Taranaki well consent application
By Pattrick Smellie
Sept. 5 (BusinessDesk) - The first marine consent application to drill for oil and gas in the Taranaki Basin has gained early approval from the Environmental Protection Authority in a process being closely watched by the industry after the hurdles struck by two seabed mining applicants who were first to test a new regime governing economic activity in New Zealand's vast offshore Exclusive Economic Zone.
Today's release is a staff report based on Austrian explorer and producer OMV's application for an exploration drilling programme that it hopes will extend the life of the Maari oil and gas field, which is already producing.
Oil and gas wells are commonplace already in the area of sea in question, off the Taranaki coast, but the OMV application is the first by the petrochemical sector to be fully considered under the new regime. OMV last week gained a marine consent from the EPA for its Whio-1 well, whose development began under transitional arrangements and had been drilled, plugged and abandoned by the time the consent was issued.
General manager of applications and assessment Sarah Gardner said that based on the information provided to EPA staff prior to publishing the report, it was considered that "the adverse effects of the planned activities could be appropriately mitigated."
“While there is still information to come from OMV and submitters, through evidence and their attendance at the hearing, after a thorough assessment and evaluation of the application our preliminary view is that the Decision-Making Committee can consider granting the consent.”
The DMC is scheduled to start hearings on Oct. 29, with a decision due by Dec. 18.
EPA staff reports are inputs to decision-making, but are emerging as a significant source of influence on the newly developed process.