Oil rig nearing drilling site

The OMV drilling rig COSL Prospector. Photo: Supplied.
The OMV drilling rig COSL Prospector. Photo: Supplied.
Global oil giant OMV says it could expand its activities off the Otago coast, as a drilling rig and a fleet of support vessels move into southern waters.

It was confirmed yesterday OMV’s giant drilling rig, COSL Prospector, had rounded Stewart Island on its way to the Great South Basin.

The rig has sailed down the West Coast from Taranaki in recent days and was yesterday southeast of Stewart Island, heading northeast towards the Tawhaki-1 drill site, located 146km off the coast of Balclutha.

There, waiting to meet it, a fleet of five support vessels has assembled, including Skandi Atlantic and Pacific Runner.

And, as OMV’s preparations for drilling ramp up, helicopters have been ferrying crew and supplies from Dunedin out to the vessels at sea.

The activity comes weeks after OMV was granted consent by the Environmental Protection Agency to drill up to 10 exploratory and appraisal wells in the Great South Basin.

The company has previously said it was planning just one test well, costing up to $80million.

Yesterday, OMV spokeswoman Tahlia Rangiwananga confirmed the fleet of vessels was preparing for the start of drilling activities.

She could not say when drilling would start, or how long it would take, as "once the rig’s there there’s a number of things to set up".

"When and if they start drilling, it could be days, it could be weeks, depending on how long things pan out."

The exact number of wells to be drilled would also depend on what was found, but the EPA consent did give the company scope to expand its drilling programme beyond one test well, she confirmed.

News of the drill rig’s arrival was greeted with hostility by Oil Free Otago yesterday, but welcomed by Cr Andrew Whiley, a spokesman for ProGas Otago.

Oil Free Otago spokesman Jack Brazil said OMV’s arrival made a ‘‘mockery’’ of recent decisions to end new oil and gas prospecting in New Zealand.

The company was also ramping up its activities in the South just as fires in Australia showed the consequences of the climate and ecological crisis facing the planet, he said.

"We are seeing a hell-blaze inferno happening in Australia. Those 100 companies responsible for 71% of [global] emissions, including OMV, are adding fuel to that fire."

Another group spokeswoman, Rosemary Penwarden, said OMV appeared also to have speeded up its move to southern waters.

"It looks as though they wanted to move on to this more controversial part of their drilling programme ... while everyone was otherwise occupied and celebrating New Year," Ms Penwarden said.

Both Mr Brazil and Ms Penwarden were coy about protest plans but said on-the-water action could not be ruled out.

"Plans to disrupt at sea are not yet fully formed but OMV should not rest easy," she said.

However, Cr Whiley said the drilling rig’s arrival was "exciting", as a viable discovery could deliver billions of dollars worth of development investment, royalties and jobs to New Zealand.

Some of those benefits would be felt locally, including by local companies acting as suppliers and bigger players making use of the estimated 20% of gas likely to be used domestically.

"I think that you just have to look at Taranaki and all the opportunities that came around it — you look at airport operations, you look at port operations, you’re looking also at support, whether it’s engineering, hospitality," he said.

"When you start looking right across the board ... there’s a lot of benefits right across."

A gas discovery would also provide a valuable transitional fuel, avoiding the need for dirtier energy sources, including coal, he said.

"We do have to live. We do have to fuel our economies," he said.



View all

"Both Mr Brazil and Ms Penwarden were coy about protest plans but said on-the-water action could not be ruled out" so what are they going to use to protest on the water with?, motor boats or row boats?. Pretty much any boat has plastics and if you use it to protest with then you are hypocritical and if you intended to row out 146 km ..... good luck.

i missed the memo where it says you must be Carbon Jesus to protest against climate change and ecocide. No, our situation is desperate - look at the fires in Australia, look at the West Coast being knocked to bits by repeated outsize storms. In dire straits we use whatever means are necessary.

So you are quite happy to use oil when it suits your agenda, typical, nothing you can do now, the rig is on its way and will start drilling and providing jobs and wages. You know what wages are right?, where people actually work instead of protesting.

Then how about protesting in a way that actually makes a difference? Instead of rowing 146kms off shore, how about getting everyone to drive into the cities and motorways, park up and walk away. Dire straits call for affirmative action. Everyone says this is critical times, so why are we not taking peaceful but collective critical measures? Lets see everyone not buy anymore cars, no more pointless driving wasting fuels. How about we stop buying anything in unessessary plastic packaging? Manufacturers would soon take notice of lost sales. I'll tell you why these things don't happen, because even as Australia burns, the sea warms while the plastic islands grow and the ice caps retreat, the motivation to change our ways still hasn't sunk in. If we act immediately, we will see global chaos, if we do nothing, the chaos will be delayed, but catastrophic. The positive action of each and every individual is the only way forward. Yelling and getting emotional at each other will do nothing but create further tensions. That's hardly a solution. Technology and education is the key. In the meantime, we drill for gas.

This is a great day for our region. Diversifying our local economy to include gas exploration is hugely encouraging for local business and local employment opportunities. Dunedin had been in the back seat for a long time, this puts another 'string in it's bow' for it's people. All those opposed are welcome to stop using oil, gas, and anything else that they believe endangers the planet. The rest of us look forward to a growing economy and the continued research and development of renewable energy sources, while finding better ways to conserve what we have in the face of demand due to population growth, both here and globally. Protesting without solid tangable solutions is merely grandstanding with repetitive sound bites.

Look at Australia, gaining "prosperity" from the coal industry. The Adani mine alone will drive species extinct, dry up groundwater in the whole central basin, and cause 3% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. That's billions of dollars of cost in the mine alone. But when you figure in the cost of the present fires - an area burnt that's greater than the North Island and growing. half a billion animals killed, loss of property and human lives - that's hundreds of billions. "Prosperity" from burning fossil fuels, don't make me sick.

Did you not read my comment correctly? I think you have misunderstood what I'm saying.
"continued research and development of renewable energy sources, while finding better ways to conserve what we have in the face of demand due to population growth, both here and globally."
And coal mining and burning is VERY much different than gas. And China generates most of it's power from coal fired power stations. They are also the greatest users of electric cars. So the mined Lithium, with the damage that causes, is charged by the coal power stations, not ideal. Yes, I certainly do see what is happening in Australia. New energy technologies and conservation is our only way through this. Or the lights go out anyway. What would be your solution? Immediately reduce our global population to reduce demands and climate damage? Restrict child births to cap population growth? Immediately stop all coal fired power generation globally? Immediately restrict the use of all vehicles globally? I see a lot of reaction, but no solutions. If we are so passionate, why aren't we all collectively walking to work?

Bill Gates has come up with a big solution but world doesn't want to know. Ie safe nuclear power generation 2020 technology that doesn't have melt downs and uses depleted uranium, but activists would say no without even considering it or scruitinising it as a viable alternative. Yet would solve co2 problem, clean and green,

Did either of you see the sky on Wednesday?

Look at the terrible summer we're having - we could do with some warmth. Let the drilling commence.

Forest fires have always occurred forever. In fact in USA they now don't fight them in national parks and treat them as a natural event. The problem is people building houses and living in them. Drought years aren't new but social media activists focus on fires as worst ever so conclusive evidence of man made global warming. But no regard what so ever for possibility natural causes. What happens if next 5 years no drought no fires? What would that tell us?

View all