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Neftegaz.ru: New Zealand Ventured to Explore in Risky Region

New Zealand is inviting Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil Corp and other natural gas producers to send rigs to one of the most inhospitable seas on Earth.

New Zealand’s government has sought bids to explore in the Great South Basin, off the nation’s southern coast. The area was last explored during the oil shocks of the 1970s, when drillers found the cost of battling 15m (50ft) waves too high to merit exploiting the area’s gas fields.

Now, as record oil prices push countries to use more gas, explorers such as Shell are venturing into deeper waters and more remote locations to find new supplies. At stake below the seas south of New Zealand are fields that may contain as much as 7tn cu ft of gas. That’s enough to supply the UK for two years, according to the earlier tests.

“The easy oil and gas has been found,’’ said Tony Regan, lead consultant with Singapore-based Tri-Zen International Pte, which has advised clients including Shell and BP Plc. “All the oil companies are well aware that they’ve got to look further afield, at deeper water, tougher areas.’’

Oil companies are being offered the chance to explore 140,000sq miles (362,000sq km) of ocean off New Zealand’s South Island, in the so-called “Furious 50s’’ and “Screaming 60s.’’ Those latitudes are renowned among sailors for the prevailing westerly winds that circle the globe.

Winds in the region peak at more than 150km an hour and exceed 36km about 40% of the time, according to the institute. In some areas, production vessels may spend as much as 30% of a year idle.

“The Great South Basin is a frontier region,’’ Associate Energy Minister Harry Duynhoven said in a statement. “The potential for high reward is matched by high risk in terms of exploration costs and challenging sea and weather conditions.’’

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