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UPDATE: Tamarind halts Tui drilling; OMV assesses options

(Adds comment from OMV starting in eighth paragraph.)

By Gavin Evans

Sept. 13 (BusinessDesk) - Tamarind Resources has halted drilling at its Tui oil field off the Taranaki coast after the first of the three planned wells came up dry.

Managing director Ian Angell says that despite the “unexpected” result from the first well, the firm believes the other two prospects are worth pursuing.

But the company will not continue the programme “at this time” and is preparing to demobilise the rig – the COSL Prospector.

“Tamarind has been unable to agree terms with the rig provider with respect to the second and third wells and as a result has suspended rig operations,” Angell said in an emailed statement.

“Tamarind will continue to produce from the existing wells at the Tui field once the rig has moved off location, which will be completed shortly.”

The suspended programme is a setback for Kuala Lumpur-headquartered Tamarind, an expert in late-life assets which bought out the former venture partners in 2017.

Low oil prices at the time meant the field, once New Zealand’s biggest oil producer, could have faced decommissioning from the end of 2019. It produced about 693,000 barrels last year, according to government data.

The change of plan has also created challenges for COSL and gas producer OMV, which had been expecting to take over the rig in December for its own summer drilling campaign.

“OMV is now working with COSL on options and consulting with a range of local and international drilling support and equipment suppliers in the coming weeks to see what flexibility the company does have,” the company said in an emailed statement.

“At this stage, OMV expects it will still be sometime in November before it is able to get underway.”

Tamarind had expected to spend about 135 days drilling three side-track wells at Tui - Tui-3H, Amokura-2H and then Pateke-4H. The rig arrived mid-June but the programme suffered from severe storms in July and August, which contributed to almost a month of delay.

The Prospector, a four-year-old semi-submersible rig designed to operate in harsh North Sea environments, is booked to drill for OMV in Taranaki and potentially in the Great South Basin.

The company, which operates the Pohokura and Maui gas fields and the Maari oil field, says it only heard of Tamarind’s change of plans yesterday.

It is planning three exploration wells in Taranaki and a fourth in the Great South Basin off the Dunedin coast.

One well, Toutouwai-1, lies in a permit directly north of Tui which OMV manages on behalf of partners Mitsui and Sapura Energy. Gladstone-1 lies further north, off the coast northwest of New Plymouth in a permit OMV shares with Malaysia-based Sapura.

OMV is also planning an in-fill well at the 40-year-old Maui field it is trying to extend the life of.

It says the results of its Taranaki exploration campaign will be "pivotal" to its forward strategy for assuring long-term energy security for New Zealand.

The company, headquartered in Vienna, is also awaiting consent for one well – Tawhaki-1 – which it had been planning to drill early next year about 146 kilometres southeast of Balclutha.

A decision on the first of a series of consents it needs for that work is expected by the end of the month.

(BusinessDesk)

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