Todd Energy managing director Richard Tweedie said his company was pleased with the High Court judgement. However, Shell NZ said it was disappointed and would be reviewing its options, which included a possible appeal to the Court of Appeal.
High Court judge Justice John Wild delivered his judgement on the case earlier this week, upholding the interim injunction granted to Todd Energy that had prevented STOS – an unincorporated organisation jointly owned by Shell NZ and Todd but holding no equity in any licences – from being removed as Maui operator.
Last year Shell NZ and fellow Maui-Pohokura partner Austrian firm OMV voted to appoint Shell as Maui operator if STOS resigned, but Todd filed the injunction preventing that resignation.
About the same time, Shell and OMV also sought to remove STOS from operating the near-shore Taranaki $US600 million ($A812 million) Pohokura project, with Shell NZ exploration and production commercial manager Ajit Bansal saying it could add substantial value to its major New Zealand oil and gas assets by moving away from the STOS service company structure.
Tweedie told EnergyReview.net this morning that the court’s judgment made it very clear that STOS is operator of Maui for the term of the field.
He said Justice Wild had found that the proposed resignation of STOS as Maui operator would have been a breach of employment contract and of the joint venture deal between Shell and Todd.
Tweedie also said the decision validated the steps Todd had taken over the last 15 months to resist Shell’s attempt to take over as Maui operator.
Shell NZ’s aim in replacing STOS was to maximise the value of Shell’s assets in New Zealand, “particularly in the case of Shell selling some or all of them”.
Justice Wild also found that Shell had “misled the court” about the causes of slippage in the Pohokura development schedule and that Shell had “misled” OMV on the same issue, Tweedie said.
He said it was particularly pleasing the court had found Todd’s actions were not open to criticism, but Shell’s were.
“Todd Energy looks forward to a continuing orderly and efficient operation of Maui as a key component of New Zealand’s energy supply,” Tweedie said.
“STOS also continues to operate the Kapuni onshore gas and condensate field and, in substance, remains the operator of the Pohokura field.”
Earlier this year, the High Court cleared Shell NZ to take over operating Pohokura, which it did last April, while Todd took over operating the onshore Taranaki McKee-Mangahewa fields on June 1.
Shell NZ spokesperson Jackie Maitland said Shell was disappointed with the court decision.
“We are reviewing the judgment and considering whether to appeal,” she told ERN.
Shell NZ owns 82.75% of Maui, 48% of Pohokura, and 50% of Kapuni. Todd owns 6.25% of Maui, 26% of Pohokura, 50% of Kapuni and 100% of McKee-Mangahewa. OMV owns 10% of Maui and 26% of Pohokura.