AWE Commits to Nine Wells Offshore NZ

Australian Worldwide Exploration has committed to participating in drilling nine wells in New Zealand from the third quarter of 2006 to halfway through 2007, New Zealand Crown Minerals reports.

AWE, operator of the Tui field development and active explorer in offshore Taranaki west of the Maui field, will also be participating in the first offshore well to be drilled in South Island's Canterbury Basin for more than 20 years.

The Diamond Offshore semisub Ocean Patriot, which drilled Tawatawa-1 for Tap Oil on the East Coast in 2004, will drill all the wells in the expanded exploration program.

The first well drilled in the program will be the exploration well Cutter-1 in the Tap Oil-operated PEP 38259 in the southern Canterbury Basin. AWE has a 25-percent carried interest in the moderate depth well.

Ocean Patriot next will move back to offshore Taranaki for the remaining four exploration wells and four development wells for the Tui Area field. AWE will operate all eight wells.

The first Taranaki well for the Ocean Patriot will be the Hector-1 exploration well in PEP 38483 (AWE operator; 44.3 percent equity). Drilling is set to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Next, the four Tui development wells (PMP 38158) will be drilled from the fourth quarter 2006 to the first quarter of 2007.

AWE will then drill two more exploration wells in the Tui mining permit area, Tieke-1 and Taranui-1, in the second quarter of 2007.

The program will conclude with the West Cape-1 well in PEP 38481 (AWE, operator; 40 percent equity).

AWE managing director Bruce Phillips said this will be the largest drilling campaign in AWE's history and will be a significant investment in the company's future growth. "The environment for offshore drilling rigs has changed dramatically recently and long commitment times are now becoming a reality," he remarked.

After the New Zealand campaign ends, AWE plans to take Ocean Patriot to the Otway Basin west of Melbourne, where it will drill three additional wells.

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