Origin has eyes on lng from Caravel

Australian-listed Origin Energy is bullish on the potential of exporting liquefied natural gas (lng) from the Caravel prospect off the coast of Oamaru, at present being test-drilled by Houston-based oil giant Anadarko.

Anadarko is 45% joint venture partner and operator at the Caravel prospect, while Origin has a 45% share, with the remaining 10% held by Discover Exploration Canterbury NZ BV. Anadarko began drilling at Caraval prospect last month, using the drill ship Noble Bob Douglas , in a month-long single-hole test-drilling programme, estimated to be costing up to $US100 million.

Last weekend, more than 600 anti-oil protesters took to the numerous beaches around Otago's coastline to criticise deep-sea drilling, calling on the Government to invest in clean and green energy. The Greenpeace protest was one of many around the South Island, as part of its Banners on the Beach campaign.

Origin Energy is reported by newspaper The Australian to have said this week it was looking at opportunities to build its lng exposure, once the $US24.7 billion ($NZ29.9 billion) Australia Pacific lng plant it is building with ConocoPhillips at Gladstone, in Queensland, begins delivering cash after 2016.

Speaking after delivering Origin's first-half results, managing director Grant King said although it was early days in the strategy, the big Caravel prospect off Dunedin's coast was of a magnitude to support lng exports, if the $US50 million-plus well being drilled there was successful, the newspaper reported.

Anadarko New Zealand manager Alan Seay was contacted, and did not discount Mr King's description of the potential of the Caravel prospect.

''Yes, it could be a very significant resource; but that's if we find anything,'' he said.

The drill ship spudded in, or began drilling, on February 10 and given there had been almost a fortnight of settled weather, Mr Seay yesterday said the drilling programme ''could come in earlier than the 35-days'' predicted.

Anadarko's Noble Bob Douglas spent about 70 days, at a cost of about $US250 million, on deep-water drilling programmes off Taranaki, which found no commercially viable hydrocarbons, before the ship shifted south.

In the Canterbury Basin, Noble Bob Douglas is operating in 1100m of water, with the test well drilled to 1700m below the seabed, to a total 2800m. Any hydrocarbon finds of commercial quantities could prompt drilling of one or more appraisal wells in the future.

The prospects of Caravel, Carrack, Galleon, Endeavour, Resolution and Barque off the coast from Oamaru have, since the 1970s, attracted the most attention from explorers in the South Island, with five shows of oil or gas, but none in commercially viable quantities, the last being in 2006.

In last year's block offer tendering round by Government permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, listed New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) was awarded the Galleon permit, next to its existing stake in the Clipper prospect. NZOG has recently completed a ship-borne hydrographic survey of the area, understood to have cost $8 million to $10 million.

• The 10% shareholder in the Anadarko-Origin Energy project at Caravel, is a subsidiary of Netherlands-based company Discover Exploration BV, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, but maintains a Wellington address.

- simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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