Solid Energy to develop Taranaki gas

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 05:00 31/05/2012

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New Zealand's biggest coal company has confirmed Taranaki as the country's hot spot for future development of a new energy source – coal seam gas.

State-owned enterprise Solid Energy is now forecasting that the vast coalfields in eastern Taranaki have the potential to produce enough gas to supply a 400 megawatt power station the size of Huntly for 45 years.

The company says a just-completed independent assessment of its coal seam gas acreage in Taranaki indicates it has 858,000 million cubic feet of so-called contingent resources, which could represent as much as 900 petajoules of gas – way up on its previous estimate of 190 PJ.

By way of comparison, the Pohokura offshore gasfield in North Taranaki contains between 500 and 1200 PJ of gas, while South Taranaki's Kupe field is estimated to contain 300 PJ. A city the size of New Plymouth consumes about 5 PJ a year for residential use.

Solid Energy has reacted to the results of the assessment by applying to the Government for a five-year extension of the petroleum exploration permit that encompasses the Eastern Taranaki coalfields. This will give the company time to move into discovery and appraisal phases.

And, so it can focus is entire coal seam gas operations on Taranaki, the company has dumped several exploration permits, including Counties in the North Island.

It also looks likely to mothball an exploration permit at Huntly, including a coal seam gas demonstration plant it built there.

Dr Steven Pearce, Solid Energy's general manager of gas developments, said last night that his company would now carry out more exploration drilling in an effort to find the best place to build a pilot gas production plant.

"There's lots that needs to be done – build the pilot plant so we can then begin to understand what rates of gas production we can achieve, and the cost of production," he said.

"But it is very exciting for us. The results of our exploration drilling out there have exceeded all expectations, and we are confident we have discovered a very significant non-conventional gas supply."

Solid Energy's decision to focus its coal seam gas operations entirely on Taranaki follows the drilling of a series of exploration wells along the region's eastern border over the last two years. Fairfax NZ

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