Oil search could generate jobs

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 04/04/2014
Oil and gas
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The oil and gas exploration area being investigated by two companies in the south.

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Poll: Two Australasian oil giants will search for black gold and gas off the coast of the Catlins.

Woodside Petroleum and New Zealand Oil and Gas were in Southland this week to discuss their permits in the Great South Basin and are optimistic about success, which they say could generate more than 2000 jobs in the region.

Preliminary discussions about potential plans were held with Venture Southland, Environment Southland and local iwi.

Woodside (the operator) has 70 per cent equity and New Zealand Oil and Gas Limited (NZOG) has 30 per cent in the exploration permits, which were secured in December but became operational only this week.

Woodside has committed to 3-D seismic acquisition late this year or early 2015 with the option for future drilling.

The offshore permit (known as Toroa) covers 9835 square kilometres - an area about five times the size of Stewart Island.

New Zealand Oil and Gas chief executive Andrew Knight said it was appropriate on the first day of the permit (Tuesday) to meet community representatives to build relationships before work progressed.

Geology studies had started and an investment would be made for seismic work in the next 12 to 18 months.

Two wells were drilled in the area in the 1970s that encountered hydrocarbon, so they knew something was there and better technology would help in the search, he said.

The industry was guilty of "over-hyping" too early but Southland could expect great things if gas or oil was found. However, it would be a long process.

After seismic work, there would be nine months of processing data and then another year to analyse it.

It could be five to 10 years before any discoveries were developed, he said. "Our drilling option is by 2021 but we probably will not wait that long."

If drilling were successful, then more than 2000 people in the region could be employed directly on the construction site for about three years and once completed that would drop to a few hundred. However, jobs would be created by subsidiary industries. There would also be indirect employment and economic benefits to the region.

Southland had only to look at Taranaki and how its GDP had doubled, he said.

"If this is successful it will really transform Southland and that excites me," Knight said. He understood the valid environmental concerns but said often people did not understand fully.

They would have a marine mammal observer on board boats and reporting back to DOC, which had the right to stop them from working.

Trade Minister Tim Groser was in Invercargill this week.

"We think there is stuff there."

The region should not to be too disappointed if it failed on the first go, because more attempts would be made, he said.

Woodside representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Green Party Invercargill candidate Dave Kennedy said exploration in the southern part of the Great South Basin would threaten the region's oyster and fishing industry, the unique biodiversity of the Catlins environment, Hector's dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins.

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The clean, green image exporters saw of the region did not fit with drilling, and more focus should be placed on renewable energy, he said.

Submissions from iwi and councils to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment when the permits were granted stressed the importance of early and ongoing engagement with both the Crown and companies throughout the block offer process.

Several submitters expressed concerns about the health, safety and environmental impacts of petroleum-related activities.

 

- The Southland Times

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