Drilling rig the Kan Tan IV is approaching the Taranaki Basin where it will embark on a 90-day drilling programme at the Matuku-1 well site.
The semi-submersible drilling unit is being held in the Marlborough Sounds aboard the Blue Marlin.
It is about to undergo the delicate float-off procedure with the help of seven other vessels.
The joint-venture partners in the Matuku exploration permit are Austrian-based OMV with 65 per cent, Octanex (22.5 per cent) and New Zealand Oil & Gas (12.5 per cent).
OMV's New Zealand managing director Peter Zeilinger said after the float-off, the rig would be towed to the first well location in Taranaki - the Manaia-2 appraisal well in the Maari field.
"We expect a start of operations before the end of the month.
"It will then take about 30 days before the rig moves on to its next location - the Matuku-1 prospect, approximately 25km from the Maari field."
The rig, from Singapore, carries a crew of up to 100 and is expected to drill the Makutu-1 well to 4850m after being moored in 135m of water.
The estimated mean recoverable resource, if there are hydrocarbons in the Matuku prospect, is about 65 million barrels.
That would potentially make it the largest offshore field in New Zealand, ahead of the Maari oil field.
Mr Zeilinger said the Matuku drilling programme was part of its investment programme to tap into new reservoirs in the wider Taranaki Basin.
"It will complement OMV's planned multi-well drilling and development plans in and around the Maari field, but it is a separate programme," he said.
The two anchor-handling vessels for the Kan Tan IV are already waiting at Port Taranaki. They have been undergoing sea trials in preparation for the Kan Tan IV's arrival.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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