New operator to Tap Taranaki fairway

TAP Oil is taking over operatorship of an offshore Taranaki exploration licence that some industry observers say could prove to be a northward extension of an onshore-offshore play centred around the Pohokura gas/condensate field.

Official Pohokura recoverable reserves are about 700 petajoules of gas and 50 million barrels of condensate, but some industry experts say the prospect could contain much more.

Tap is increasing its equity in PEP 38496, from 30% to 37.5%, and taking over from Perth-based private company Finder Exploration as operator.

Tap will assume operatorship effective from December 22, the start of the new permit year, managing director Paul Underwood told from Perth.

“The Year 2 work program provides for the acquisition of 200km of 2D seismic, with acquisition, processing and interpretation required to be completed by December 2007,” he said. “This is being worked on at present but no contracts have been awarded yet.”

Tap has been joined in PEP 38496 by government-owned Mighty River Power, which is taking a 25% stake. The remaining 37.5% is held by Finder Exploration.

This is the fifth deal MRP has signed with various explorers during the past two-and-a-half years. All its interests are in onshore or offshore Taranaki permits and the company is keen to play a significant role in New Zealand exploration and production.

MRP new business development manager Steve Rawson declined to comment on the company’s PEP 38496 farm-in.

He also declined to comment on rumours that MRP was farming-out half its 50% equity in licences PEP 39488-490 ahead of operator Pogo Producing Company using the Ocean Patriot semi-submersible rig to drill two wildcat wells in the acreage next year.