Anadarko says it is making good progress drilling its wildcat
well in deep water off Taranaki and is due to finish work by
the end of the month.
Drilling was the target of a protest flotilla when it first
started work 160km off the coast in late November but a
spokesman said it had not delayed work which is costing
around $1 million a day.
Greenpeace said it was likely to again target the massive
drill ship, the Noble Bob Douglas, possibly as it makes its
way to its next drill site off the east coast of the South
The Taranaki well, in 1520m-deep water, will reach a depth of
just over 3km below the sea bottom.
Anadarko spokesman Alan Seay, who was on board the vessel
yesterday, said it was in the final stages of drilling.
"We're looking to leave here at the end of the month to head
towards the Canterbury prospect but it's all gone very well
The prospect is in new territory and the company has opted
release details of the depth of the hole and what signs have
been encountered. "Because this is what's known as a 'tight
hole', so I can't give away details and can only speak in
generalities and say the progress is good and broadly in line
with what we originally set ourselves," he said.
There were roughly 200 workers aboard the vessel at any one
including about 90 New Zealanders.
"It's a real United Nations as a lot of these projects are,"
Sea conditions had been good with weather causing no
The Noble Bob Douglas is 229m long and 36m wide. Six
thrusters hold the ship in position, which is pinpointed by
satellite. "Emphasis on safety is huge, before you go out to
the vessel when you're out here. It's absolutely front and
Drilling fluid is returned to the ship to be recycled and
cuttings washed before being discharged overboard.
The exploration well will be plugged temporarily or
permanently when drilling has finished.
Texas-based Anadarko was a 25 per cent shareholder in the
Macondo well which blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010,
killing 11 workers and leading to the United States' worst
oil spill. Anadarko agreed to pay US$4 billion in
Seay said it did not have blow-out capping stacks here but
the ship had containment equipment that "could be used in the
highly unlikely event that something went wrong".
Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel said while the
before Christmas didn't halt drilling, it did raise awareness
about the danger of drilling in deep water off the New
Zealand coast. He said the country was better off investing
in sustainable technology and businesses than on risky
New laws permitted a 500m
exclusion zone around oil exploration vessels and Seay said
the proximity of the protest flotilla before Christmas was a
"That zone is put in place for very good safety reasons. When
you've got someone inside that zone it required us to divert
resources to keep an eye on them. It was a concern but it
didn't hold up our operation."
The vessel falls outside the Taranaki Regional Council's
jurisdiction and Maritime New Zealand monitors any oil
discharges. Spokesman Steve Rendle said staff had visited the
vessel before drilling started and were likely to repeat the
visit before it finished.
There had been no reports of problems from the vessel, he
Work Safe inspectors have also been aboard the Noble Bob
Douglas twice, the first visit for familiarisation and the
second a routine inspection.
"No issues of concern were found," a spokesman said.
Seay welcomed Shell's commitment to drill in the Great South
"I think that's showing greater
interest in New Zealand. These are no small commitments to
bring equipment like this out to New Zealand ... I think it
shows a growing confidence in what might be here. A discovery
of any scale would be great news for New Zealand."
"We feel that it's gone very well in the progress that we've
- Grant Bradley of the NZ Herald