New Zealand Offers Five Blocks in Deepwater Taranaki Basin

Five Deepwater Taranaki Basin blocks are being offered in New Zealand's first deepwater petroleum bidding round, the Associate Minister of Energy Harry Duynhoven said. The five blocks, off the west coast of the North Island, covering a total of 42,000 sq km of unexplored acreage, have been placed on offer for competitive bidding by oil explorers.

The Deepwater Taranaki Basin is adjacent to the highly productive Taranaki Basin, and extends down the continental shelf from about 200 meters of water depth into the head of the New Caledonia Basin, in about 1800 meters of water depth. The bidding round follows the collection in 2001 of 6200 km of grid pattern 2D seismic survey data over the deepwater area by TGS-NOPEC.

Interpretation of the new seismic data by scientists from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences has revealed a total sediment thickness of over 10,000 meters in parts of the deeper section of the basin.

The interpretation also shows an exciting new oil play — a Late Cretaceous delta approximately 100 km long, possibly 100 km across and 2000 meters thick. This is in addition to play types already identified in the shallow waters of the Taranaki Basin. The new Cretaceous play is stratigraphically below the established shallower-water plays on the Taranaki Basin shelf.

Large potential oil-bearing traps up to at least 150 sq km in size have been identified within the deepwater basin. Delta systems like the one pinpointed, are an important source of oil in recent offshore deepwater discoveries in other parts of the world. Thermal modeling shows that source rocks within the delta are generally mature today and that maturity is a low risk for this basin. "The opening of a deepwater oil exploration area creates some exciting new possibilities for the petroleum industry in New Zealand, " Mr. Duynhoven said. "We will need high technology companies with large resources to be able to discover and develop any oil that is found", he said.

New Zealand's present Exclusive Economic Zone has an area of 4 million sq km, about 15 times the area of its landmass. Within this enormous offshore area are a number of deepwater sedimentary basins.

Many of the significant oil discoveries in recent years have been made in deepwater fields such as in the Gulf of Mexico, and off the coasts of West Africa and Brazil. Some oil industry analysts believe that 90% of the world's undiscovered offshore hydrocarbon reserves lie in ocean depths over 1000 meters.

The blocks on offer will be allocated on the basis of a competitive work program system where the exploration company bidding the best program of work for a particular block is likely to be the successful applicant.

A year will be allowed for marketing of the blocks with applications closing on September 30, 2003.

Representatives of Crown Minerals group within the Ministry of Economic Development will be presenting a series of seminars on the Deepwater Taranaki bidding round to international petroleum companies in Houston, London, and Singapore over the next few weeks.