Busy times ahead for oil and gas

Pieri Munro (in light-coloured jacket at right), of New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, sings a waiata before those attending a public information session on oil and gas exploration enter the Araiteuru marae, in Dunedin, last night. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Pieri Munro (in light-coloured jacket at right), of New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, sings a waiata before those attending a public information session on oil and gas exploration enter the Araiteuru marae, in Dunedin, last night. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The next three and a-half years will probably be a busy time for oil and gas exploration off the Otago coast, New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals revealed last night.

The government agency's director, Andrew Annakin, made the revelation at a public information session on oil and gas exploration at Dunedin's Araiteuru marae last night.

A timeline display of oil and gas activities in the Otago area showed ''exploration drilling'' was expected to occur eight times between now and the end of 2018, while ''seismic surveying'' was expected five times.

Mr Annakin said only Shell, which previously reported it planned to drill for gas and oil in the Great South Basin in early 2016, had made a commitment to drill.

Other ''exploratory drilling'', from companies including Anadarko, TAG Oil and Greymouth Petroleum, was yet to be confirmed. Whether the drilling went ahead would depend on the results of seismic data.

Mr Annakin also revealed another company had ''very recently'' applied to carry out a seismic survey covering a large area off the Otago coast.

A number of those at the meeting expressed concern over aspects of drilling and exploration, including the impacts on marine life from seismic surveying.

Department of Conservation technical adviser Dave Lundquist said there was a potential danger to sea mammals from seismic surveying, which involved bouncing sound signals off the ocean floor.

Seismic surveying was being investigated as the cause of a pilot whale beaching at Kaka Point in February. The results of a necropsy, paid for by Shell New Zealand, were yet to be confirmed, Mr Lundquist said.

In order to prevent surveying hurting sea life, independent advisers and monitoring equipment were mandatory on all seismic surveying expeditions, so work could be stopped if animals were nearby, he said.

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Authority, Maritime New Zealand, WorkSafe New Zealand, the Ministry for the Environment, and the Otago Regional Council were also at the meeting.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz


Well why did you leave with a sense of futility?

Well why did you leave with a sense of futility and questions unanswered? Here was your opportunity to ask anything you wanted. Two hours is a good length of time; and I am sure if you want to follow up with further questions, Dr Ilg and his team will respond. It's up to you.

No surprise that protesting voices were largely absent. Typically, such parties prefer to posture and shout from a position of ignorance, rather than debate the issues.

Seems to me there was little point doing a necropsy, if DOC had decided beforehand that either the whale had been affected by the seismic survey ( and how might that be determined, one wonders) or that the necropsy results were non definitive, ie that the seismic survey could have been a factor in some way they could not determine. The 'Anything' factor, in other words.

The reality is that lots of seismic has been done over the last half century, with no established impacts on marine life; and that now the procedures regarding marine mammal observers, shutdown and startup are far more stringent in the past, the likelihood of any adverse impacts is far less than previously, when no incidents were established anyway. We seem to have become a nation of Chicken Littles.

Feeling of futility

I attended Thursday night's meeting about oil and gas drilling at Araiteuru Marae.  I was surprised at the low turn-out, given strong community opinions on both sides of the issue. 

I understand why pro-drilling supporters felt little need to attend the Dunedin meeting, as New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals representatives were in town as much to answer questions as they were to anounce that extensive oil and gas seismic exploration of the Canterbury and Great South Basins will continue and expand, irrespective of anti-drilling sentiments. If I took one thing away from the meeting, I learned where to find this govt. chart showing existing drilling permits (indicated in grey ) and the 2014 block offers currently available (indicated by yellow). Note the areas closest to Dunedin and the Catlins coasts on offer 

Current permits (yellow area on map) are held by Shell, TAGoil, Australian-based Woodside, Greymouth Petroleum, NZOG partnered with Beach Energy, and Anadarko, which, we were informed, is not done exploring and fully intends to return. 

The presentation and question and answer session lasted for about two hours, an insufficient duration for responding to the flood of questions. Many wanted to hear more about finances, emergency and crisis response to oil spills, potential health threats to humans and wildlife caused by seismic exploration and drilling, and much more. Some also questioned why oil exploration permits were awarded and marine consents given without formal public approval. The meeting began with the public being formally welcomed into the marae and invited for tea and snacks. This set the tone for the evening, of coming together in peace, rather than acrimony. Still, I left the meeting with many questions left unanswered and a sense of futility; no doubt others felt the same. I wondered if NZPAM had disingenuously staged the meeting all for show. 

Brad Ilg, Manager of Petroleum Strategy, Planning and Promotion for New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, several times invoked Norway as a model for New Zealand's oil industry in terms of its management of resources and revenues, and handling of the environment. In my opinion, this comparison is ridiculously simplistic, as there are vast and critical differences between the two countries' oil and gas industries, and how these are managed by their respective govenments.  

It should be noted that DOC representative Dave Lundquist stated that the many whales have worms in their ears and this could not be seen as the definitive or sole cause for the whale stranding. He clearly stated that the necropsy results were still inconclusive.  


'Drill baby drill'? There have been no reports of chicks working on the rigs. Albert Bogan.

Drill baby drill

I think the Greens and Greenpeace have had their moment of nonsensical scaremongering. It's time to move forward, welcome these companies and make Dunedin prosperous.[Abridged]

Whale necropsy

The results of the whale necropsy are out. Nothing to do with seismic surveying, it was a worm infestation in the whale's ear.

No surprise there. There have been hundreds of thousands of kilometres of  seismic  acquired around NZ over the last 60 years, of which quite a bit has been off Dunedin. And there have been a number of wells offshore Dunedin. No problems reported. Why, suddenly, is there this hyped up 'alarm' from certain parties?

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