Drill, baby drill - all over region

Explosion of oil exploration activity planned in Taranaki

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012

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Close to 100 oil and gas wells are likely to be drilled in Taranaki over the next two years as exploration activity ramps up to its busiest in the region's history.

The activity is likely to be so busy that at least eight onshore and up to four offshore rigs may be drilling simultaneously during the summer of 2013 and 2014.

Already there are seven onshore rigs in Taranaki and six of them are involved in drilling campaigns now taking place throughout the region.

In addition there are another two land rigs currently drilling off the Maui A and B gas production platforms offshore.

Explorers have already secured the services of one big rig to drill off Taranaki's coast next summer, and industry rumours say negotiations are now under way for up to three more to be hired to drill in Taranaki waters.

The truth behind these rumours was underlined yesterday when leading international well services provider Petrofac announced a contract to assist Austrian exploration company OMV in the planning and drilling of a number of wells off Taranaki from late next year.

A media release said a Petrofac subsidiary, SPD, would be involved in drilling from two rigs.

No details were available yesterday regarding where these two rigs will operate, but it is known that OMV is currently tendering for supply of a rig or rigs to drill a mix of exploration, appraisal and producer wells in the Maari and Manaia oil fields southwest of Taranaki, and to potentially drill exploration wells in prospects called Matuku and Hector further to the south.

Under the terms of "drill or drop" requirements that are part of exploration licences covering these prospects, much of the drilling needs to take place next summer.

A number of other exploration companies also either need to drill next summer to meet their own drill or drop requirements, or want to drill further into existing fields.

These include AWE which wants to drill into new prospects in the Tui field; Todd Energy which is required to explore its Kanuka prospect north of New Plymouth; NZOG with its Mauku prospect off Taranaki's northern boundary; and Kaheru off South Taranaki; and STOS which may want to re-enter its partially-drilled Ruru prospect adjacent to Maui.

The rig already secured is the drill ship Noble Bob Douglas which will explore what is known as the Romney prospect in 1500 metres of water, 140 kilometres out to sea, for exploration giant Anadarko.

Other offshore drilling in Taranaki waters will be at shallower depths, which means the additional rigs will most likely be jack-up rigs which position themselves on the sea floor, or semi-submersibles.

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Details of the 2013/14 busy summer became known at the recent New Zealand Petroleum Summit where oil industry expert John Kidd of Edison Investment Research Ltd gave a drilling preview for the next 24 months.

He said onshore activity would be extremely strong with at least 60 wells planned, most of them high-probability infill or near-field wells. Mr Kidd forecast that the only major constraint would be consenting.

Looking at the offshore activity, he forecast that 2013/14 was likely to be "very, very" busy, with at least 25 wells slated to be drilled in what he described as a healthy mix of near-field and wildcat wells in producing and frontier basins.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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