Oilmen return to Taranaki

New Zealand Energy Corp chief operating officer Ian Brown, left, and newly appointed New Zealand country manager Chris Bush.
New Zealand Energy Corp chief operating officer Ian Brown, left, and newly appointed New Zealand country manager Chris Bush.

Two Taranaki energy industry leaders have been head-hunted to join Vancouver-owned New Zealand Energy Corporation as it rapidly ramps up its operations in New Zealand.

The company has hired Origin Energy's New Plymouth-based New Zealand country manager Chris Bush to take up an identical position with NZEC.

It has also attracted back to Taranaki veteran oilman Mike Oakes, who has been working as a consultant in Australia since finishing as operations manager for Origin, a role in which he oversaw development of the big Kupe production station.

Both have intimate knowledge of the Taranaki energy scene, and they join an increasingly high- powered NZEC executive team as the company positions itself for plenty of exploration and production activity in New Zealand.

It will begin early next month when NZEC begins an eight-well exploration drilling programme in what is known as the Eltham permit, a sprawling 374 square kilometre licence area from Eltham to Hawera which is 100 per cent owned by NZEC and which has already achieved a 100 per cent strike record with four exploration wells drilled so far.

Three of the wells, Copper Moki- 1, 2 and 3, are already producing oil and gas. The oil is trucked away for export and the gas piped to the Waihapa production station. Copper Moki-4 is being prepared for production.

NZEC is also 65 per cent owner of an adjacent permit called Alton, a 483sq km area of land that extends to the east of the Eltham permit. The company plans to drill at least one exploration well in this permit this year.

At the same time, NZEC is buying from Origin Energy four existing central Taranaki petroleum mining licences known as TAWN (Tariki, Aruhoa, Waihapa and Ngaere), plus the Waihapa production station just east of Stratford. Target date for completion of these acquisitions is October.

The company also owns exploration permits in the East Coast Basin and off Castlepoint in the Wairarapa, but at this stage activity there is focusing on increasing technical understanding and no exploration wells planned until at least 2013.

NZEC chief executive John Proust said his company's ability to attract the industry's top professionals underlined the prospectivity of its New Zealand assets.

"With a significant exploration programme set to begin in early August, NZEC is building the foundation to support continued growth in all areas of its business," he said.

Mr Bush began his energy industry career with Synfuel and has since worked for Methanex, Natural Gas Corporation, Swift Energy and Origin Energy, and is chairman of the New Zealand Petroleum Exploration and Production Association.

He said his last two roles - Swift and Origin - had involved company start-ups in New Zealand, and his new job would be a continuation of that.

"That's the sort of thing I really enjoy, so I couldn't turn down this latest opportunity."

Opunake-born Mike Oakes has worked in the oil and gas industry for 33 years in Canada, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand, and his new responsibilities will be for all producing wells and the operation of Waihapa which he oversaw when he worked for Petrocorp Exploration in the 1980s.


New Zealand Energy Corp timeline:

April 2010: Company founded as East Coast Energy Ventures. May 2010: Files application for Castlepoint Permit, a shale exploration opportunity off Wairarapa. December 2010: Obtains Eltham Permit. Changes company name to New Zealand Energy Corp. January 2011: Drills Copper Moki-1 discovery well. February 2011: Acquires Ranui Permit in East Coast Basin. May 2011: Acquires operating and working interest in Alton Permit. August 2011: Copper Moki-1 flows 1100 barrels of oil a day. February 2012: Copper Moki-2 flows 5318 barrels of oil a day under test. May 2012: Copper Moki-3 and Copper Moki-4 both discover oil. May 2012: NZEC enters in agreement with Origin Energy to acquire Taranaki assets. July 2012: Company hires leading Taranaki oilmen.

Taranaki Daily News