Norway's TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company is to conduct a seismic survey for potential oil exploration in 60,000 square kilometres of previously unexplored deep water in the Taranaki Basin, off New Zealand's west coast, it was announced Wednesday.
New Zealand's Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), which is also involved, said the survey was hoped to be a forerunner of a major new oil exploration effort in the Tasman Sea.
GNS said it regarded the area as the most attractive of New Zealand's deepwater sedimentary basins. It will be the country's first large-scale marine reconnaissance seismic survey targeting oil prospects in more than two decades.
Associate Energy Minister Paul Swain said oil exploration in and around New Zealand was already at its highest-ever level, with 24 wells to be drilled this year and more likely.
Swain said most of the world's biggest oil discoveries recently had been found in deepwater ocean areas, and New Zealand had come of age as a place for international oil companies to invest exploration dollars.
GNS said the survey was non-exclusive and data obtained would be licensed to several of the larger oil companies, which are the only ones with resources to explore deep-water prospects.