The Government's latest block offer has given oil and gas companies five on and offshore exploration permits for the Taranaki coast.
Permits were picked up by Australian company Octanex (one offshore Taranaki permit), Australian firms AWE and Mitsui Australia (one onshore Taranaki permit), Tag Oil (one onshore Taranaki permit), and Eastern Petroleum (part of Tag Oil) and Greymouth Petroleum offshoot Petrochem (one onshore Taranaki permit).
The Government awarded a total of 10 new oil and gas exploration permits yesterday.
Norwegian oil giant Statoil and Australia's biggest independent oil company, Woodside, are joining the hunt for oil and gas in New Zealand. Small Southeast Asian company Mont D'Or is the third new overseas company to start exploring.
Woodside has teamed up with locally owned company New Zealand Oil & Gas to explore an area in deep water off the Taranaki coast, and has committed to new 3-D seismic work.
Woodside and NZOG are also partners in an area of the Great South Basin, southeast of Invercargill.
Statoil was awarded an offshore Northland block to explore, known as the Reinga-Northland permit, about 300 kilometres northwest of Auckland, starting about 100km off the Northland coast.
Statoil's exploration permit runs into water as much as 2500 metres deep, far deeper than Anadarko's deep-water exploration well now under way off the Taranaki coast.
Combined, all the explorers have committed to spend about $62 million on early-stage exploration in the 10 permit areas.
If successful that could lead to more New Zealand exploration work of up to $720m.
Offshore well drilling depends on initial exploration work and it could be several years before the companies make a decision to drill wells that can cost tens of millions of dollars each.
The committed exploration spending is down on last year's block offer total of $82m, but this year's spending involves more offshore exploration work.
Energy Minister Simon Bridges said the results of the block offer showed New Zealand was firmly on the map for oil and gas explorers.
Petroleum Exploration and Production Association chief executive David Robinson said the block offer had brought investors and operators with vast experience to New Zealand.
"They are regarded as the best in the business" and operated to the highest standards, Mr Robinson said.
But the Green Party said the Government was "putting our beaches at risk of an oil spill by today awarding four new permits to mainly foreign-owned companies for deep-sea oil exploration".
Statoil's profits form a pension fund.
"The Government is risking our environment and our economy to pay for Norwegians' pensions," Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said.
The permits were announced during one of the biggest oil and gas exploration drilling seasons in New Zealand, with 13 wells being drilled offshore and about 30 onshore.
The industry was expected to spend $600m to $755m on that work.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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