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Student Shakes Up Canterbury Plains

Wellington student Mike Stevens will have the Canterbury Plains exploding "quietly" around him during oil exploration work in the next couple of months.

"The bangs won't be very big; in fact they're fairly quiet," he says.

"But they're important because the sound waves they generate paint a picture of the rock formations underneath."

Mr Stevens, 25, a Victoria University School of Earth Science geologist, will use explosives to discover the depth of the source rocks under the Canterbury basin. Indo-Pacific, which also works in places such as Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Timor Sea off north-west Australia, plans to drill for oil at two sites on the plains. Indo-Pacific is the project operator with partner AMG Oil Ltd contributing to costs.

The explosions will generate sound waves that will be recorded by seismographs called geophones - basically spikes driven into the ground. As the sound waves go through the ground any changes in rock densities will be reflected upwards and picked up by the geophones.

Mr Stevens is working for Indo-Pacific under the Technology for Industry Fellowships scheme, which enables students to do research with businesses. The scheme, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, allowed him to take on the project as part of his master of science degree.

Oil comes from the earth's source rocks, which are deep in the ground. "Heat is generated by the pressure of rock on top of the source rocks," Mr Stevens says. "Over time the heat expands the rock, which forces upwards long-buried marine algae and plant material - the essential ingredients for oil."

The project interests Mr Stevens because he thinks the source rocks under the Canterbury Plains could be deeper than commonly believed.

"They could be four-six kilometres deep, and I'm going to find out how deep."

He says he will be processing and interpreting data already collected and combining it with new data. "A lot of data was collected from earlier explorations, but the technology is a lot better now, so I hope we find something new."


-ends-

Contact: * Mike Stevens, 025 447-135. * Jenni Lean, corporate affairs manager, Indo-Pacific Energy (NZ) Ltd, 284 Karori Rd, Wellington. Ph(04) 476-2717. Email: jennil@indopacific.co.nz. Website: www.indopacific.com * Karen Lewis, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, Ph: (04) 498-7841. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525, ian@idcomm.co.nz


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