MEO AUSTRALIA is set to become operator of petroleum exploration permit PEP51153 in the Taranaki basin, after liquidators were appointed to Kea Petroleum in December.

MEO, which holds a 30 per cent stake in the onshore permit, had a contractual right to assume operatorship, subject to regulatory approval.

Kea had been involved in negotiations to sell its 70% stake in the permit to privately owned New Zealand company Caliera Fund for NZ$500,000, as company shareholders agreed in July.

But this was held up by delays in securing section 41 approval from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals – with Kea announcing in early November that it would need to raise further funds by 26 November to continue – something which did not occur.

“The directors have concluded they have no option but to engage the services of an insolvency practitioner,” Kea said in an announcement.

“As a result of recent developments in New Zealand, the likelihood of securing the required Section 41 consent in the near future now appears to be remote.”

MEO chief executive Peter Stickland said his company’s interest in the permit would be unaffected by Kea going into liquidation, confirming its stake in the permit would not rise.

“MEO sees significant potential value in the PEP51153 permit and will consider its options in relation to the opportunities the Kea liquidation action may present.”

Kea had planned to drill a well to test the prospectivity of the Shannon structure on PEP 51153 in 2016, having already found oil in the Puka 1 and Puka 2 wells, drilled in 2013.

PEP 51153 covers 84,700 hectares and is adjacent to the Waihapa oilfield.