By Neil Ritchie

THE NEW Zealand government launched the 2015 petroleum blocks offer at this year’s Advantage NZ Petroleum Summit, held in Auckland during late March.

This year the government has offered up over 475,000 square kilometres of nearly all frontier acreage, except for one offshore block and one onshore block in the Taranaki basin.

Total acreage on offer exceeds even that of the 2014 blocks offer (of 40.5 million hectares) which was the biggest at that time even though only about 13% was finally awarded as new exploration leases.

The four offshore release areas are the Reinga-Northland basin, Taranaki basin, Pegasus-East Coast basin, and the Canterbury-Great South basins. The three onshore release areas are acreage in Taranaki and two blocks on the West Coast of the South Island.

As happened last year, the mix of large high risk offshore frontier regions and smaller lower risk coastal and onshore areas in Taranaki, the country’s only commercial petroleum province, was again widely anticipated by the energy sector.

Industry commentators are saying potential bidders, particularly multinational corporations with long-term investment horizons, will still be keen to secure new acreage despite the global oil price slump and oversupply, given this country’s attractive regulatory, royalty and fiscal terms.