Offshore East Coast Blocks Offer Raises Hopes of New Petroleum Discoveries

The New Zealand Associate Minister of Energy, Hon. Harry Duynhoven, announced the opening of the 2005 Offshore East Coast Blocks Offer.

In opening bidding on offshore petroleum blocks in the East Coast of the North Island, the Associate Minister of Energy Hon Harry Duynhoven said today that the data provided to exploration companies as part of the bidding process raised hopes for the potential for new discoveries in the region.

Formally announcing the Government's offer of four blocks, Mr Duynhoven said, "The new seismic data acquired by Crown Minerals has revealed highly encouraging features and anomalies which will create worldwide interest in the potential of New Zealand."

Mr. Duynhoven said that the data had been acquired as part of a Government sponsored survey to increase both knowledge of and confidence in New Zealand's petroleum prospectivity.

"The project – which was a world first – has already delivered huge benefits to the exploration industry in New Zealand," said Mr. Duynhoven.

The Minister said that the data had highlighted significant geological features which were not only "very encouraging" in terms of potential, but were also at a water depth and location which would shorten the time to bring any discoveries to market.

"In addition to the particular features of interest discovered by this survey, the concept of providing seismic data to explorers as part of a bidding round has attracted worldwide interest," said Mr. Duynhoven.

The Minister said that having data freely available had helped improve perceptions about New Zealand's exploration potential, which had been the single biggest barrier to attracting new explorers to New Zealand.

"We have spoken with explorers who had previously never considered New Zealand for exploration, but are now in serious discussion with joint venture partners regarding the content of possible bids," Mr. Duynhoven said.

The Minister added that, although companies wished their interest to remain confidential until the conclusion of bidding, the scale and number of interested companies was unprecedented, with several of the companies being world leaders in the exploration industry. "While there is no certainty yet as to who may bid, I am very hopeful that we will have a level of exploration next year which has never been seen before in New Zealand," Mr. Duynhoven said.

Mr. Duynhoven added that the results of the seismic survey and subsequent international interest reaffirmed his confidence that the strategy to promote the frontier petroleum basins was the right one if large scale oil and gas were to be found to replace decreasing Maui reserves.

"New Zealand needs smaller-scale, onshore discoveries to buy us time, but if domestic gas is to be an integral part of our medium-term energy security then it is critical that we look for the larger scale prospects in the frontier petroleum basins," said Mr. Duynhoven.

He added that with onshore and near-shore Taranaki having provided much of New Zealand's energy for the past 30 years, and at least four to six 6 basins capable of being developed over the next 5-10 years, the New Zealand gas exploration and production industry has a very positive future.

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