Chevron and Indian explorer join New Zealand oil, gas search

Tue Dec 9, 2014 12:14am EST
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WELLINGTON Dec 9 (Reuters) - New Zealand awarded 15 oil and gas exploration licences on Tuesday, with U.S. giant Chevron and India's ONGC Videsh joining the hunt in the South Pacific country for the first time.

Chevron is partnering with Norway's Statoil to explore three prospects off the lightly explored south-east coast of the North Island.

Statoil is already in New Zealand and has been awarded a further offshore block in its own right at the top northwest coast of the North Island.

The Indian government controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd has made its first foray into New Zealand with one offshore exploration permit in the Taranaki Basin, in the same region as several commercially successful oil and gas fields.

"New players continue to enter our market, and existing players cement and expand their work here," Energy Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement.

The government has changed the rules for the tendering and awarding of exploration permits to encourage foreign companies to explore the southern oceans around the country.

The awarding of the permits, which are open for between 10 and 15 years, comes at a time when major oil companies such as BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Total are cutting back on exploration, laying off staff and selling assets globally to cope with sliding oil prices.

The permit recipients have committed to various work programmes ranging from geological and seismic surveys through to drilling exploration wells.

Six of the permits awarded were for onshore blocks, including two on the west coast of the South Island, while nine were for offshore blocks. Of the total, seven permits were for exploration in the Taranaki region.   Continued...