A Texas oil giant linked to the Deepwater Horizon spill has today been granted a permit to search for oil in the waters off Marlborough's coast.
Anadarko Petroleum Corporaton, one of the world's largest petrochemical companies, was awarded two permits for exploration in the Pegasus basin.
Anadarko already expects to test drill two or three exploratory prospects in late 2013/14. But Anadarko said it would be years before it might test identified prospects in the Pegasus Basin, pending the results of its analysis.
Anadarko has a 25% stake in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 - an area in the Gulf of Mexico where the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill took place.
Anadarko has since denied any liability in the incident, and refuses to pay a share of the fine imposed on BP saying it was solely BP's fault.
Energy and Resources minister Phil Heatley announced the new exploration permits at a ceremony at Parliament today.
The oil companies awarded permits are committing to spending a total of $82 million on exploration around New Zealand.
Seven of the ten block offers are in the Taranaki Basin, two in the offshore Pegasus Basin and one in the Great South Basin to the east of Dunedin.
The permits are equally divided between onshore and offshore areas.
Heatley said if all initial work was successful it could lead to spending of a further $776 million within five years.
The ten blocks were awarded out of an initial 25, which was whittled down to 23.
There were 24 bids for 13 of the blocks offered.
The blocks were awarded on the basis of how much exploration work was planned and the technical and financial capability of the bidders to carry out the work programme.
The blocks offered in covered 40,198.53 sq km of offshore seabed and 3305.45 sq km land in Waikato, Taranaki, Tasman, the West Coast and Southland.
Land listed under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 was excluded from the blocks.
FIVE YEAR PERMITS
* Anadarko Petroleum Corporation with two permits for the Pegasus Basin off Wairarapa's south coast.
* Shell, OMV and Mitsuim with one new permit in the Great South Basin Todd Exploration and Cue Taranaki, with one offshore Taranaki Basin permit New Zealand Oil & gas with one offshore Taranaki permit.
* Canadian firm Tag Oil offshoot Cheal Petroleum and fellow Canadian explorer East West Petroleum with three onshore Taranaki permits.
Cheal and East West have committed to a total of nine exploration wells onshore within 12 months, making it one of the busiest companies in the sector.
East West is the only new arrival to New Zealand as a result of the blocks offer.
* Tag Oil with one onshore Taranaki permit and New Zealand Energy Corporation and NZOG with one onshore Taranaki permit in a joint venture.
- The Marlborough Express