By New Zealand Correspondent Neil Ritchie

UNCERTAINTY regarding the intentions of Anadarko Petroleum has set tounges wagging, but the US major seems committed to New Zealand – at least for the next five years.

Industry commentators first raised concerns about the US major’s long-term intentions after its Romney-1 wildcat , the first well drilled in the Deepwater Taranaki basin, came up more or less dry.

This, coupled with the sub-commercial shows encountered by the Caravel-1 well off Otago utilising the Noble Bob Douglas deepwater drillship earlier this year, has led many to question the company’s intentions.

The US major recently applied to the government’s New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals unit for another five years for it and its respective partners to keep exploring Deepwater Taranaki basin licence PEP 38451 and offshore Canterbury basin PEP 38264 (Carrack-Caravel) – the two major deepwater leases it operates.

But the proposed work programs for both leases contain so many variables – particularly the “Commit or Surrender” clause appearing every few months or so – that Anadarko may stop operating these permits at short notice.

It is a similar story with Anadarko’s two newer Pegasus basin leases, PEPs 545858 and 54861, which it also operates, and its stake in the 32-month prospecting lease PPP 55377 covering part of the frontier New Caledonia basin to the northwest of the North Island that Shell operates in conjunction with Anadarko and China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

Other potentially prospective parts of PEP 38451 are known to include some, such as the Merino Prospect, that are close to or extend into the New Caledonia basin.

Meanwhile, offshore Taranaki Tui oil field operator AWE has completed and suspended the Pateke-4H in-fill well for future production.

First oil is due to f low in the first half of 2015, following installation of a subsea flow-line linking the well to the Tui field gathering system.

The semi-submersible Kan Tan IV is relocating to the northeast, to the nearby Oi-1 well location, with drilling starting during the last week of May for the Tui partners AWE, New Zealand Oil & Gas and Pan Pacific Petroleum.

Austrian giant OMV has won another seven years for one of its many offshore Taranaki leases, PEP 51313, near its core operational area, the Maari oilfield.

The Maari partners OMV, Todd Energy and Australia-listed juniors Horizon Oil and Cue Energy Resources are also partners in PEP 51313, and their first exploration effort will be the Whio-1 well targeting the Whio Prospect near the border between the PEP 51313 licence and the Maari permit.

OMV will fund the well, due to be drilled later this year, as part of its 2012 farm-in agreement.

This news comes as the Dunedin City Council shifts its existing policy of investment in oil and gas companies, just months after it invested almost NZ$1.7 million in some un-named petroleum producers, through the council’s Waipori Fund.

Industry watchers consider this an unusual move as local or regional government authorities should be free from any actual or potential conflicts of interest regarding having any pecuniary interest in or favouring particular energy companies.