Austrian oil giant OMV is joining a partnership which aims to drill an exploration well at the Whio prospect off the Taranaki coast, near the existing Maari oil field.
OMV has signed a farm-in agreement for a 30 per cent interest in the offshore area called PEP51313 and OMV will become the operator for the licence by March next year.
As part of the deal, OMV will pay for an initial single exploration well in the Whio prospect which is close to the Maari permit border.
Earlier this month, OMV agreed to pay for the drilling of the Matuku-1 prospect off the Taranaki coast late next year.
The Whio prospect is about 4 km from the Maari installations in water 95 metres deep. Subject to rig availability, drilling is expected to take place as part of OMV New Zealand's drilling campaign due to start in summer 2013/14.
If there is a commercial discovery at the Whio prospect, OMV New Zealand's share will increase to 69 per cent under the farm-in agreement.
Including OMV New Zealand, the new 51313 Joint Venture partners are Todd Exploration (35 per cent), Horizon Oil New Zealand (21 per cent) and Cue Taranaki (14 per cent), also partners in the Maari JV.
The farm-in agreement is subject to regulatory approval.
"This farm-in works well with our strategy to mature opportunities in the Taranaki Basin in general, and in particular, near our core area - the Maari field," said OMV New Zealand's Managing Director, Peter
The Matuku-1 well is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars and could be followed by a second well.
Matuku will be the first in a series of wells OMV is planning to drill in the Taranaki basin later next year.
The offshore Taranaki Maari oil field is expected to run for another 10 years after hitting 20 million barrels of oil since 2009, according to OMV.
Maari is 80 kilometres off the coast of South Taranaki, about 20km from the giant Maui gas fields.