The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Oil drillers come up empty handed

Anadarko shifts focus to Otago coast after $1m-a-day Taranaki operation draws blank.

United States oil company Anadarko says its first New Zealand deep sea exploration well failed to find commercial quantities of oil or natural gas after a million-dollar-a-day campaign off Taranaki.

Drilling of the Romney 1 well in the deepwater Taranaki Basin - about 160 km off the Raglan coast - began in November but it was found to be "water-bearing" after reaching its total depth of 4619m, the Texas-based firm announced.

"Though the well, drilled by the state-of-the-art drillship Noble Bob Douglas in 1550m of water, did not encounter commercial quantities of oil or natural gas, the data collected from the well will be very useful in determining future activity," the company said.

The firm said the Romney 1 well would be abandoned and plugged in accordance with New Zealand regulations. Anadarko started drilling in late November.

Anadarko spokesman Alan Seay said the Noble Bob Douglas would now move to another exploration site in the Canterbury Basin off the Otago coast.

The US company's New Zealand exploration programme has been controversial, with environmental groups questioning the safety of deep sea drilling in the wake of BP's Deep Sea Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Questions have also been raised over this country's ability to respond to a similar disaster.

A flotilla of protest boats has shadowed the Noble Bob Douglas during its time off the North Island's west coast.

Anadarko had a 25 per cent interest in the Gulf of Mexico oil prospect in which the Deep Sea Horizon was drilling.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel said the announcement was "a real bad day for John Key's Government and for Anadarko".

"The Texan oil giant has not only announced that their New Zealand drilling has failed, they've also announced a loss of over $950 million dollars in the last quarter," Abel said.

He said the Government had wasted a lot of political capital over the drilling programme.

"Instead, they should be backing our own cutting-edge clean energy industry, which will bring thousands of jobs and a multi-billion-dollar economic boost. That's what smart politicians would be doing."

Chief executive of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association David Robinson said finding commercial quantities of oil and natural gas was no easy feat.

"A lot has been made of the proposed risks associated with drilling in deep water - yet the facts are, just because you drill does not mean you will find hydrocarbons," he said.

"Opponents of the oil and gas industry have campaigned on the idea that drilling a well in deep water automatically means oil and the risk of an incident. Anadarko debunked their myths, and show the truth behind oil and gas industry - and that is oil and gas are really hard to find. Data collected from the well will be useful in determining future activity."

- NZ Herald

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