TAG Oil Lays Off 60 Workers at Sidewinder Site in New Zealand

WELLINGTON - Canadian oil exploration company TAG Oil Ltd. has laid off 60 workers and stopped drilling operations at the newest well on its Sidewinder site on New Zealand's North Island following complaints of noise levels exceeding prescribed limits, a senior company official said Wednesday.

Tag's Sidewinder site currently has seven wells in production. The 60 workers who have been laid off were involved in drilling at an eighth well, a highly automated site, the company said.

The company received a noise abatement notice from the New Plymouth District Council last week, TAG's chief operating officer, Drew Cadenhead, told the Wall Street Journal by email.

"The company voluntarily stopped the drilling program while it works through the issue," Mr. Cadenhead said, adding that the company "is now reviewing what options it has for this site (the eighth well)."

Problems at TAG Oil's newest well started in February, when the New Plymouth District Council issued a first notice about nighttime noise levels. That notice was withdrawn after the company placed a barrier of containers between the site and two nearby houses directly affected.

A second notice was issued last week when night-time noise levels again exceeded the prescribed 45-decibel level.

The Sidewinder site is one of four permits owned by TAG Oil in the oil-producing Taranaki basin on the west coast of the North Island. TAG has had interests in New Zealand since 2003. The first discovery of oil at the Sidewinder site was in 2010.


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