Oil, gas hold $1.5b potential to boost Bay

By Patrick O'Sullivan


Oil and gas development in Hawke's Bay similar to Taranaki's could be worth $1.5 billion annually in exports and create 5500 jobs, says a government report.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment report studies the benefits of future oil and gas discoveries in terms of export growth, GDP growth, government revenue and regional development opportunities.

Tukituki MP Craig Foss and Napier MP Chris Tremain said they were both excited by the potential.

"The report shows benefits of a second Taranaki and Chris and I are asking, could this be the East Coast?" Mr Tremain said.

Mr Foss said: "We are in favour of any industry that helps our families by boosting exports, stimulating economic growth and creating jobs.

"It would be fantastic if our community could enjoy some of the benefits they've had access to for some time in the Taranaki region."

Stratford-based Canadian oil company Tag Oil is in a $100 million joint venture with industry giant Apache to develop TAG's extensive East Coast oil exploration permits.

TAG reports improving results in Taranaki and it ended the first quarter of the 2012 financial year with $103 million of cash and no debt.

Production revenue for the quarter doubled to morethan $8 million compared with the previous first quarter, with the last 18 wells drilled proving successful.

The company has entered into an agreement to acquire three further exploration permits in the East Coast and Canterbury Basin but it had not yet drilled on the East Coast, which has hundreds of sites where oil and gas makes its way to the surface.

Apache Corporation senior project adviser Alex Ferguson said TAG and Apache believed the East Coast had vast potential.

Mr Foss said strict environmental criteria must be satisfied first.

"We are not in favour of oil and gas exploration at any cost," he said.

While New Zealand legislation invites development, fear of environmental damage from fracking has resulted in a campaign that has intimidated some Hawke's Bay landowners into denying Apache access for oil exploration.

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Murray Douglas received a threat of violence from an environmentalist for supporting oil exploration.

Fracking involves the fracturing of rock using water pressure. Chemicals, increasingly sourced from the food industry, are added to temporarily jellify the water, so sand can lodge in cracks to help "tight" oil or gas flow.

Mr Ferguson stands by Apache's extensive fracking record.

"All of our operating practices have and will continue to be world class with respect to the protection of cultural, social and environmental values," he said. "It would be unfortunate for the residents of New Zealand if the social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits from the discovery and operation of a world-class resource was lost due to the actions of the few opposed and the inaction of the many supportive."

TAG has paid independent laboratory costs to the Taranaki Regional Council so every well in its operating area could be tested, with all coming up clean.

Simon Lawrence, manager resources economic development group of the ministry, said a new oil basin similar to Taranaki would be a boon to the region's economy.

"While the scenarios are hypothetical, the potential for growth of the oil and gas sector is real. There is reason to be confident that ongoing exploration investment will lead to new field discoveries and that local economies can benefit from such developments."

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana and TAG chief operating officer Drew Cadenhead have both called for petroleum revenue being used to fund "a serious look" on lessening New Zealand's long-term dependence on oil and gas.po

- Hawkes Bay Today

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