Wellington, Aug 12 NZPA - A drilling rig is due to start work in the Maari oil field after being released last Thursday from Origin Energy's Kupe gas project.
The rig is expected to drill at least five oil producers and three water injectors on the Maari oil field, which is thought to be capable of producing 49 million barrels of oil, according to a Texas-based energy news website, energycurrent.com.
The Maari oil project is owned by a joint venture comprising Austrian-owned OMV New Zealand (69 percent), Todd Maari Ltd (16 percent), Horizon Oil International Ltd (10 per cent) and Cue Taranaki Pty Ltd (5 percent).
OMV - the largest oil company in central Europe - is operating the Maari field, its first investment on this scale outside Europe.
Maari's oil bearing reservoirs are around 1300m deep and OMV plans to drill other strata at 2500m. It also plans to drill an appraisal well in an adjacent area,
All wells will be drilled from a common seabed location.
The oil wells will be tied to the Maari wellhead platform and the floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) Raroa, which has just been moved to the site.
With a 150m high wellhead platform delivered earlier this year from Malaysia, the FPSO is a major part of the $NZ500 million development of the field 80km off south Taranaki.
The bulk of Raroa's 50 crew and the drilling rig's 50-80 staff will be New Zealanders.
First oil was previously scheduled for this quarter - but now those flows look likely to be during the last quarter of the year, and they are expected to ramp up to 35,000 barrels a day.
Tankers will take 400,000-450,000 barrels of the waxy oil every fortnight to eastern Australia for refining.
OMV more than doubled profits to $95 million in New Zealand last year, as its Pohokura field came into full production.
Pohokura produced about 70 petajoules of gas last year, and OMV holds 26 percent of that field, with Todd Energy having a similar stake, and oil giant Shell a 48 percent stake.
It also has a 10 percent stake in the Maui gasfield and a 36 percent stake in exploration of the Great South Basin, south of Stewart Island.
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