GEOLOGICAL data produced by research and consultancy services firm GNS Science will be available to oil and gas exploration companies in a range of map-based data products, the company has announced.

GNS said in an announcement that the products, which will be available at no charge, will help to pinpoint prospective areas in New Zealand’s offshore territory.

Work on the Atlas of Petroleum Prospectivity started in 2014 and is part of a four year project funded by the New Zealand ministry of business, innovation and employment.

The Atlas will show the current geological understanding of New Zealand’s 18 mostly offshore petroleum basins, GNS Science petroleum geologist Malcolm Arnot said.

“It will be the first time that such a wealth of knowledge has been freely available in one place in a standardised Arc Geographical Information System format,” he said.

The project will bring together about six decades of existing geoscience information, augmented by new open-file data, on subsurface habitats where oil and gas could potentially have accumulated.

Scheduled for release at the end of June is the Northwest Province Datapack, which includes data on the Taranaki, Deepwater Taranaki and Reinga-Northland basins.

Datapacks covering the other provinces will be released progressively with the final one due in late 2018.

GNS Science is also scheduled to release a new digital atlas of prospectivity in the second half of 2016, with the data resource expected to help exploration companies quickly focus in on offshore areas that are potentially prospective.

The other atlas areas are the southeastern province (Great South and Canterbury basins), the eastern province (Pegasus-East Coast-Raukumara basins), and a far frontiers province covering lesser explored basins further from the coast.

Atlas products will be made available through GNS Science’s Petroleum Basin Explorer web portal and also as datapacks.

Dr Arnot said the full extent of New Zealand’s natural petroleum endowment was unknown. It resided deep below the surface and finding it was complex, expensive, and time consuming.

The workstation-ready atlas would help to accelerate decision-making by providing regional scale information on factors such as sediment thickness, and the distribution of potential source, reservoir, and seal rocks, he said.

The main users of the digital atlas would be companies that are evaluating petroleum prospects globally, companies that are new to New Zealand, companies who are already here and looking for new opportunities, and government agencies that administer permit allocations.

“Our aim is to markedly improve the accessibility of information for assessing prospectivity, incorporating data on previous exploration in a region. Users will be able to quickly focus on areas of high prospectivity, and factor in issues such as data scarcity.”

Dr Arnot said he hoped uptake of the information by industry would result in greater exploration success for the economic benefit of the country.