Grande plans for NZ frontier exploration

UNITED States independent Grande Energy Exploration and Production Company has secured finance that should see it spend up to $US4 million ($A4.5 million) exploring for oil and gas off the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island over the next two years.

The Fort Worth-headquartered company has just secured $US3 million ($A3.38 million) of additional funding from fellow Texan firm Opex Energy Corporation.

“This financing gives Grande Energy the ability to put its development plans into practice,” according to company founder, chairman and chief executive Robert Gaudin.

“We will work to expand the significant potential of Grande Energy’s Haast Basin project. In addition, we will continue to evaluate and acquire new projects to further extend our operations and exploration efforts.”

Opex acquired preference shares in Grande Energy, paying 9% per annum, which may be converted into 4% of Grande Energy’s common stock.

Gaudin told that he was excited about Grande Energy’s first foray in New Zealand.

“New Zealand is extremely appealing. It has lots of incentives, and we feel it is very prospective,” Gaudin said from Fort Worth.

The New Zealand Government’s Crown Minerals unit granted Grande licence PEP 38527 – largely offshore but with a thin onshore coastal strip – last September.

Gaudin said the additional finance allowed his company to move quickly to satisfy work program commitments over the 11,810 square kilometre block, he added.

Grande has nearly finished reprocessing a minimum of 465km of 2D seismic and would acquire more than of aeromagnetic geophysical data within the next month or two.

The company was also scheduled to acquire at least 525km of new 2D, Gaudin said.

He said Grande believed the Haast Basin project had the potential to hold between 1-10 billion barrels of oil or substantial quantities of gas.

Gaudin also said there were geological similarities between the Haast Basin, offshore Taranaki and Australia's Gippsland Basin, albeit on a smaller scale.

“There are the same age rocks, same depositional period, and other things,” he said.

Grande has identified seven prospective anomalies so far from analysis of existing seismic data. There were also some widespread oil and gas seeps visible in parts of the permit.

Later commitments included shooting 3D seismic before committing to drill a well.

Gaudin said development options for any commercial oil found were straightforward. Any large gas discoveries could be exploited through the construction of liquefied natural gas export facilities.

“The indication is that there is more oil than gas, but we will take whatever we find,” he said.

Grande could drill a wildcat well as early as late 2009, given positive results from the surveys and rig availability, according to Gaudin.

While an onshore well could test some near-shore structures by drilling deviated wells, and a jack-up rig could drill others offshore, only a semi-submersible would be suitable for much of the permit.

The Grande permit is essentially the same acreage that US firm Thomasson International Ventures and Shell Exploration New Zealand held earlier this decade but later relinquished.