"Pohokura has been a critical component of New Zealand's energy forecasting for sometime, and I am delighted to see this project now proceed" Mr Duynhoven said.
The first gas from the field is expected in mid 2006. Initial production of gas is expected to be approximately 50 PJ per annum, representing approximately 25% of New Zealand's total annual gas production.
In addition, 3 mmbbls of condensate is initially expected per annum, representing one-third of total annual production.
The Pohokura permit is the second mining permit granted this year, with a further two permits currently under application.
In addition, this year has seen 21 wells drilled in New Zealand, with a further 9 wells to be drilled this year – twice the number drilled in 2003.
"We recognize the importance of gas production to New Zealand's overall energy security, and a strategy has been developed in response to this. While Pohokura is not a complete solution to our energy needs, it has an important role to play in our wider strategy for investment in exploration in New Zealand" Mr Duynhoven said.
The Pohokura field was discovered in February 2000 and is located immediately offshore, east of Waitara in northern Taranaki. The permit, which has a term of 32 years, will be operated by Shell Todd Oil Services Limited (STOS) on behalf of the Joint Venture partners Shell Exploration New Zealand Limited, OMV New Zealand Limited, Todd Pohokura Limited, and Shell (Petroleum Mining) Company Limited.
"I would like to acknowledge the work that has gone into awarding this permit in a timely manner, and the cooperation which has existed between the company representatives and the Ministry's Crown Minerals Group."
"I look forward to seeing Pohokura brought into production, and the continued flurry of activity within the exploration industry," Mr Duynhoven concluded.
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