Anadarko gives up Pegasus Basin permit

Houston oil and gas giant Anadarko has joined Norway’s Statoil and Brazil’s Petrobras in relinquishing exploration permits in New Zealand, which brings the Government’s current offshore and onshore block offer under the blowtorch.

While Anadarko is relinquishing its Pegasus Basin permit, south of Cook Strait and Wairarapa, it is retaining its interest in the southern end of the Canterbury basin, off Oamaru, and also the New Caledonian, far to the northwest of New Zealand.

There has  still been no word from Shell on its intentions in New Zealand, and how much of its estimated $1billion in assets it might eventually put up for sale, or retain, after announcing an asset review a year ago. Green Party energy and resources spokesman Gareth Hughes celebrated Anadarko’s withdrawal from Pegasus, saying the chance of an oil spill on a favourite beach "just got much lower".

"This is a big win for everyone who campaigned against deep-sea oil drilling off Wellington’s south coast," Mr Hughes said in a statement yesterday.

Anadarko had joined a long list of companies which had given up on oil exploration in New Zealand, including Statoil’s surrendering its Northland permits in October, and Petrobras, which departed in 2012.

Anadarko’s New Zealand corporate affairs manager Alan Seay said, when contacted, given other opportunities around the world, and the current price of oil,  Anadarko had decided to drop the Pegasus permit.

"It was decided there was no point in any further expenditure," Mr Seay said.

Anadarko’s permit for the Canterbury includes a "drill or drop" the permit clause, but Anadarko had several months ago applied to government permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals for an extension, from next January to January 2018.

"We’re expecting to hear back on that some time in the new year," Mr Seay said.

Anadarko’s permits in the Pegasus Basin off the southern Wellington and Wairarapa coasts were granted in the December 2012 Block Offer and covered 7085sqkm.

Industry speculation, given the relinquishing of numerous permits by large operators, is picking up as to how successful the latest block offer will be.

The Great South Basin remained on the list for potential oil and gas exploration activity, when in September Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges launched the proposed block areas to be thrown open to tender for oil and gas exploration in 2017.

The consultation period for the 2017 block offer was open until November and the final areas for tendering are expected to be announced in March.

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