Exploration activity growing on NZ's West Coast

NEW Zealand minnow Widespread Energy has won its second petroleum exploration licence on the West Coast of the South Island.

Crown Minerals yesterday granted Widespread licence PEP 50439, covering an area of 3269 square kilometres off the West Coast between the towns of Hokitika and Punakaiki.

The offshore acreage complements the onshore licence PEP 38526, which covers an area of 287.8sq.km around the Kotuku oil seeps north of Lake Brunner, that Widespread won late last year.

First-year work program commitments for the new licence include Widespread reprocessing 200km of existing 2D seismic, doing thermal modelling and compiling an inventory of leads and prospects.

The company is to acquire 500km of new 2D seismic within 30 months and drill an exploration well within 48 months.

Widespread's offshore acreage is also near several offshore-onshore licences applied for or already granted.

These include PEP 38521, where operator L&M Petroleum plans to next week restart drilling of its shallow Fireball Creek-1 well, and the more southern acreage L&M applied for last December.

In the nearby offshore licence PEP 38527, US independent Grande Energy Exploration and Production Company plans to spend up to $US4 million ($A4.4 million) exploring for oil and gas over the next two years.