Fuel for Thought

  • The Greymouth Petroleum Company
By Dr. J. C. Jones, University of Aberdeen (UK)

The Greymouth Petroleum Company By Dr. J. C. Jones, University of Aberdeen (UK)

Mar 17 2008 Read 1127 Times

Greymouth is a small town on the west coast on the South Island of New Zealand, accessible from Christchurch and the other cities of the South Island by one of two routes through the Southern Alps. When the author, at the time a junior academic in Australia, first made that journey in December 1978 there was a short stretch where the road ceased and a motorist was directed on to a wooden bridge which also bore the railway line.
New Zealand is not well endowed with hydrocarbons. It has for many years had to rely on liquid fuels made from natural gas piped ashore from the Maui field off the west coast of the North Island, one of the country’s few substantial hydrocarbon reserves. The discovery of reserves in the South Island of NZ was therefore good news and a potential stimulant to the national economy. The Greymouth Petroleum
, set up in 2002, produces oil and gas from three fields: Kaimiro, Ngatoro and Turangi. (Maori place names are still prevalent throughout NZ.) It also holds a number of exploration licences within NZ.
Previously the only oil field in NZ was the McKee field, discovered in 1980 and entering production five years later. It is on the west side of the North Island. New Zealand currently produces about 42000 barrels
of oil per day. The Maui field previously referred to is abundant in condensate which can be diverted to the liquid stream and so supplements the oil*. Even so NZ imports about three times the amount of crude oil it produces. Being a tiny country without a large manufacturing base and major exports only of primary produce, NZ is very vulnerable when oil prices surge. That is why exploration for oil is high on the national agenda and exploration licences have been granted not only to the Greymouth Petroleum Company but also to other operators. NZ does have significant coal reserves and permits to explore for coal bed methane have also been awarded.
The Greymouth Petroleum Company’s most recent (April 2006) discovery was natural gas at Turangi, believed to be accompanied by condensate in amounts of the order of 5 million barrels.
* An OPEC country (which of course NZ is not) cannot aggregate crude and condensate production figures in meeting its quota.
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