New Zealand to Ask for Bids for Canterbury Basin

Approximately 50,000 square kilometers in the offshore Canterbury Basin are expected to be tendered out to exploration companies late in the second quarter of this year. Exact boundaries have not yet been established, between four and six blocks were likely to be involved, said Beatrice Mare- Jones, an adviser for Crown Minerals in Wellington. Over the next two or three weeks, results will be released of a major study of the petroleum source rock potential in the basin, carried out by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd.

The study has used rock samples of earlier exploration wells, Endeavour-1 and Galleon-1 off the Oamaru coast, Clipper-1, and Resolution-1 off the mid-Canterbury coast, drilled during the 1970s and 80s. Galleon and Clipper both had significant hydrocarbon shows. Galleon, drilled about 12km off the North Otago coast, flowed gas at 10 million cubic feet a day and condensate of 2250 barrels a day.

Ms Mare-Jones said the area of those wells would be among the blocks tendered this winter. The permit area was last held by small Brisbane-based explorer Pacrim Energy, which relinquished the license in June 2000. It had earlier been looking for partners to drill the South Galleon prospect about 18km south of Galleon-1. The Canterbury Basin has similar geological properties to the Taranaki Basin, New Zealand's premier oil producing area.

The two areas were joined before the alpine fault movement about 20 million years ago, and millions of years before that were also linked to the Bass Strait, one of Australia's main oil producing areas, Ms Mare-Jones said.

Denver-based Anschutz Corporation has a huge offshore permit area, covering 17,857 sq km, just below Banks Peninsula and extending south to close to the Waitaki River. The area is immediately north of the new areas to be tendered. The Anschutz permit area contains four known prospects in water between 110m and 150m deep. Anschutz is expected to move closer over the next 12 to 15 months towards a decision to drill. It has the biggest onshore license area in New Zealand.

Canadian company Indo-Pacific Energy drilled two onshore wells in Canterbury in late 2000 -- Ealing-1 north of the Rangitata River, and Arcadia-1 near Cust -- but both were unsuccessful. It has since been working from the data produced from those wells, but its major focus has been in Taranaki. This week Indo-Pacific started drilling Huinga-1B, aimed at a prospect which could be similar to the nearby Waihapa field, which has produced more than 27 million barrels of oil and gas. Indo-Pacific holds a 12.3 percent share in the Huinga PEP 38716 permit. Indo-Pacific's fully owned Goldie-1 well continues in steady production, with more than 181,000 barrels of oil produced and sold as of April 9. The company would clear about $50 a barrel.