A total of 15 new petroleum exploration permits have been granted in New Zealand’s latest licensing round, including several in remote deepwater and ultra-deepwater frontier zones off the coasts of both the North and South islands.

The total committed exploration investment from companies in the round was more than $110 million. Of most interest offshore were nine permits across the Reinga-Northland, Taranaki, and the Pegasus basins. The total acreage awarded in the licensing round covers 47,690sq km, 85% more than that awarded in 2013.

New Zealand’s Energy and Resources Minister, Simon Bridges, was particularly pleased to welcome two new entrants to the country’s waters, all with substantial deepwater exper­ience – Chevron and ONGC Videsh.

Offshore permits were awarded to:

• Chevron NZ Exploration: Three offshore Pegasus permits (in a joint venture with Statoil Lambda Netherlands BV)

• Statoil Lambda Netherlands BV: One offshore Northland-Reinga permit

• ONGC Videsh: One offshore Taranaki permit

• New Endeavour Resources: One offshore Taranaki permit

• OMV New Zealand: One offshore Taranaki permit and one offshore Pegasus permit

• Todd Exploration & Beach Petroleum: One offshore Taranaki permit

The Chevron-Statoil consortium’s three permits in the Pegasus and East Coast basins, all located southeast of North Island, are all for a 15 year period, with Chevron the operator in all three. Each will have a 50% stake. PEP 57083 covers an area of 9,968 sq km, PEP 57085 spans 9,802 sq km, and PEP 57087 covers 6,259 sq km. The committed work programmes for all three include 2-D and 3-D seismic acquisition, and comprehensive frontier basin exploration studies and surveys.

Chevron says the blocks feature water depths ranging from 800-3,000 m (2,600-9,800 ft).

Statoil was also awarded operatorship for one new 15-year permit next to existing acreage it holds in the Northland-Reinga Basin. Block 57057 was awarded to Statoil with a 100% working interest. It is located about 100 km offshore adjacent to Block 55781 and covers an area of 1,670 sq km. Water depths are around 1,500 m (4,920 ft). Statoil has committed to acquire 200 km of 2-D seismic data within the permit.

India’s ONGC Videsh was awarded a 12-year offshore conditional permit in the Taranaki basin, with PEP 57090 covering an area of 2,121 sq km. The committed work programme includes acquiring 1,400 sq km of 3-D seismic data within 48 months.

Austria’s OMV, meanwhile, was granted one 15-year offshore permit in the Pegasus basin, with PEP 57073 covering 9,800 sq km, and another in the Taranaki basin, with PEP 57075 covering an area of 1,365 sq km.