Shell New Zealand has confirmed its plans for a
two-dimensional seismic survey starting next month, with
Dunedin being considered as a likely base for crew changeovers
and supplies being taken out to the survey vessel.
Shell health, safety, security, environmental and social
performance exploration manager Grant Batterham said the
owners of the vessel were on route to New Zealand and a
meeting would be held tomorrow on where to base the
Things under consideration included security, safety, crew
and the community. The survey vessel carried 42 crew and the
support craft had up to 14 crew.
The seismic survey would be conducted 150km off the coast of
Dunedin and was expected to take 70 days.
The cost was in the ''tens of millions'' of dollars and was
just stage one of what could turn out to be a 10-year
programme if gas was found in the 21,200km sq survey area, he
The survey was similar to an ultrasound in which air under
high pressure was released to provide sound waves down to the
ocean floor. Behind the survey vessel, an 8km ''streamer''
sat below the surface, measuring the sound waves. A computer
program was then used to create a 2-D image of the sea floor.
Otago Chamber of Commerce president Peter McIntyre said the
visit by Shell was further confirmation the coast of Otago
was of interest to both Shell and Anadarko.
''We can only hope they are successful with exploration and
Dunedin becomes the base for a significant gas industry.
Shell has committed to a significant large investment - large
on any scale - and hopefully they find something out there.
"Our expectation is for gas, and we need to be positive about
that,'' he said.
Mr Batterham, who had been in his role for about three weeks,
said looking for hydrocarbons in the Great South Basin was
Eight explorations had taken place in the basin between 1976
and 1983. Two had identified hydrocarbons. Both had gas and
both were thought to be uneconomic.
Asked about Shell's attempt, the third major survey, he said
the company was ''hopeful'' but the survey came with high
costs and a high risk of failure.
The best estimate was a 30% chance of gas being found.
''It is risk and reward. If we find an economic field, it
will be of benefit to the joint venture partners and New
There was a 1% probability of oil being found, he said.
Condensate could also be found, along with the gas, but it
evaporated quickly and did not develop into a thick floating
Mr Batterham went to great lengths to stress Shell was a
signatory to the original voluntary Department of
Conservation code to minimise disturbance to marine mammals.
The seismic vessel would have a team of four independent
marine observers on board who would maintain a 24-hour visual
and passive acoustic watch.
If marine mammals were detected within specific zones, as
defined by the code, the survey would be shut down until they
had moved out of the area. The observers were also required
to record data on all marine mammal observations and report
the information to the department, he said.
''There is always room for improvement but we take the latest
science on board.''
Shell acknowledged the protest activity around New Zealand
regarding surveys and exploration. However, there were all
sorts of misunderstandings around the industry, Mr Batterham
Gas produced about half of the carbon dioxide emissions of
coal and future energy needs could be met by the use of more
Already, Shell produced more gas than oil. Shell New Zealand
country chairman Rob Jager said in a statement to the
Otago Daily Times the company was committed to open
communication with local stakeholders and to adhering to
stringent safety and environmental standards to minimise
potential harm to people and the environment.
''We believe that continuing community engagement and
participation is crucial for developing open, meaningful
dialogue and building trust.
"Our commitment is to hold regular community meetings in the
areas where we operate, to listen, receive feedback and
respond to queries about our business activities,'' he said.
Dunedin city councillor Jinty MacTavish still has misgivings
concerning the exploration process of Shell. There was not
much new coming from Shell's meetings in the city this week.
The oil and gas debate was a side issue, she said. She
remained concerned the world could only burn one-third of the
hydrocarbons already found and did not believe there was a
need to look for more.
''I have concerns about the impact of hydrocarbons on the
climate. The numbers they gave us show there is a 70% chance
of finding nothing and only a 30% chance of finding gas,'' Cr