Oil explorers target East Coast

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Last updated 13:41 24/07/2013

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Oil exploration sites are stretching further up the East Coast with the announcement that more wells, beyond Dannevirke, could be drilled this year.

The Gisborne District Council is due to tick off a Tag Oil application for a well at Te Karaka, near Gisborne, within two weeks, council environment and policy group manager Hans van Kregten said.

The announcement follows similar consents confirmed by the Tararua District and Horizons Regional councils for sites in Tararua earlier this year.

Van Kregten said the Gisborne council was considering whether the process should be considered notified or non-notified - a point of contention in Tararua - which would mean the community may be able to have a say on the topic. If it was considered a notified consent, it would be the first for the council and perhaps New Zealand, van Kregten said.

Tag's end-of-financial-year report shows the company has plans to drill at least three more exploration wells in the East Coast Basin in the next 18 months, to "convert a potentially major undiscovered and unconventional resource into proven reserves".

Expected to be among those is an exploration site at Mangahei, 17 kilometres east of Dannevirke and 2km from the Tag-drilled Ngapaeruru.

Tag's Canada-based chief executive Garth Johnson has said the company's future in the East Coast territory looks promising, with the 2014 financial year set to be "the most active and exciting year Tag has ever experienced".

After promising signs from the Ngapaeruru sites, more exploration looks imminent, Tag has said.

Data gathered from the exploratory drill is still being analysed, but the findings will shed light on the suitability of the East Coast's rock quality for drilling.

That should build a long-term picture of the coast's oil basin opportunities.

Tag said drilling at the Te Karaka Punawai site could start by January.

There are also onshore and offshore oil exploration sites being made available as part of the Government's Block Offer - an annual tender to oil and gas companies to put forward bids for petroleum exploration permits.

This year the East Coast has two onshore blocks spanning more than 1300 square kilometres up for grabs, with consents granted in December.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says the East Coast blocks were chosen because the region has "long tantalised" successful exploration, is relatively underexplored and has more than 300 known oil and gas seeps.

A ministry study suggested the economic benefits could range from $360 million to $18 billion.

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- Manawatu Standard

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