Spud date set for NZ wells as dust still flies

Two postponed wells within the onshore Taranaki Ngatoro mining licence are to proceed, despite there being no resolution of differences between partners Indo-Pacific Energy and Greymouth Petroleum.

An announcement from Indo-Pacific's North American PR firm said the company planned for the Tabla-1 exploration well to spud either late this month or early July, followed by the Goldie-2 appraisal well from August - both within the Ngatoro mining licence PMP 38148.

However, Indo-Pacific chief executive Dave Bennett cautioned against any undue optimism because of the positive drilling announcement.

"No, not at all", he said from Wellington when asked if the wells going ahead meant the end of the spat between Indo-Pacific and Greymouth. "Matters are in no sense resolved; these are very technical issues," was all he would add.

Greymouth principal John Sturgess said from Auckland that he was pleased drilling plans were proceeding, but declined to comment further.

Last month Bennett could not say when Goldie-2 or Tabla-1 would be drilled. Any new capital expenditure for the Ngatoro field, excluding the Goldie prospect, required a positive vote by the partners. Decision-making regards Goldie, which Indo-Pacific drilled last year on a sole-risk basis, was different, however.

Industry commentators still say Greymouth - which purchased Shell New Zealand's 59.57% stake in the Ngatoro mining licence earlier this year - has a different exploration strategy to that of minor (5%) stakeholder Indo-Pacific.

The commentators say Greymouth is probably claiming it is entitled to a greater percentage of the Goldie project at no extra cost, while Indo-Pacific maintains Greymouth's original purchase of the Shell share of PMP 38148 was just that and covered Shell's buy-back into Goldie and nothing else.

Indo-Pacific has said Greymouth will have to make additional cash payments, based on future oil prices, reservoir performance and other operational factors, to ever take a greater slice of the Goldie pie.

Last year Shell NZ exercised its right to buy back into the Goldie pool for an unspecified premium, but one which was more than $US750, 000, while fellow Ngatoro partner New Zealand Oil and Gas declined to do so.

Both Goldie, which has now produced almost 200,000 barrels of oil, and Tabla are small prospects likely to each contain about two million barrels or so of oil in the shallow Miocene-aged Mt Messenger sandstones. They should, however, prove very economic to develop as they are close to the Kaimiro production facilities and associated pipelines, as well as being less than 40km from Port Taranaki and its petroleum exporting facilities.