Two new Canadian oil and gas explorers have appeared in New Zealand, taking a 965 square kilometre onshore licence area in Hawke's Bay, in what appears to be the first outcome from the government's new "block offer" policy.
Marauder Resources East Coast has won the exploration licence for Petroleum Exploration Permit 53806 in a joint venture with Canadian Overseas Petroleum to explore "unconventional" shales in the Whangai formation, in the central Hawke's Bay.
The licence area sits between two others being explored by fellow Canadian TAG Oil, near Gisborne in the southern Hawke's Bay, both of which have prompted opposition from local environmental groups who fear TAG and its Texan partner, Apache, plan to use hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", to unlock hydrocarbons held in shale formations.
Both Marauder and COP are Calgary-based, junior players in global oil and gas exploration.
Marauder has interests already in Canada, the Middle East and the Gulf of Aden, while COP's interests to date have been in West Africa and the North Sea.
In a statement issued in Canada in November 2, COP says Marauder will operate the licence for the first year, after which COP will assume ownership for the remainder of the initial five year licence period.
Both are listed on Toronto Stock Exchange, as are TAG and another Canadian entrant to the local market, NZ Energy Corp, which has onshore Taranaki and East Coast interests.
"The East Coast Basin onshore New Zealand contains a number of large oil and gas accumulation targets focusing on unconventional resource plays within the Paleocene-to-Cretaceous aged Whangai and Waipawa shales," COP said in a statement to the TSX.
"Offsetting permit holders in the basin include TAG Oil and NZ Energy, both of which have had independent third party evaluators assign shale oil resource potential of 12.6 and 20.9 billion barrels original oil in place respectively."
COP plans to commission a third party engineering study as a first step assessing potential in its licence area, where the Whangai formations look most promising.
The New Zealand government began a new policy of offering specified exploration blocks this year. The offer round closed recently, and the official agency, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, has not yet announced outcomes.