Austral Outlines Upcoming Drilling Program

Austral Pacific Energy Ltd reports that Cheal-A3X well in New Zealand will commence drilling on or about April 8, and will take two weeks to reach its target depth of 1700m (5,600 feet). The well will test the Mt Messenger sands within the Cheal structure, and will also intersect the shallower Cheal oil and gas pay sands at a location updip and north of the existing two Cheal wells. The Cheal structure has been mapped as potentially covering an area of up to eight sq km (2,000 acres), and Cheal-A3X will play an important role in determining how development of the field will proceed.

The Honeysuckle-1 and Miromiro-1 exploration wells in onshore Taranaki will follow Cheal-A3X.

The Company also announces that it is securing inventory and permits for the drilling of the Cardiff-2 appraisal/development well. This well is planned for Third Quarter, 2004; and will drill to 4,900m (16,000 feet) to test an extensive set of gas charged reservoirs encountered below 4,000m (13,000 feet) in the Cardiff-1 well, drilled by Shell in 1990.

The Cardiff Prospect is the largest of several deep gas targets within Austral's onshore Taranaki permits. Other targets now defined for drilling include the Onaero North and Waitoriki Prospects, with several further targets requiring additional exploratory work before commitment to drilling.

These deep gas targets all have the potential to significantly address New Zealand's burgeoning energy problems and gas supply squeeze; which are the subject of ongoing and intense concern and debate within industry, media and political circles. The recent New Zealand Petroleum Conference and this week's National Power New Zealand conference are heavily focused on this issue.