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Shell New Zealand has announced it will start preliminary exploration for oil and gas in deep ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, in a 50:50 joint venture with the Chinese state-owned oil company.
Shell says it will be conducting two-dimensional seismic exploration and other "non-invasive research techniques" to explore the seabed and geology of the virtually unexplored New Caledonia Basin, a prospect area that straddles New Zealand's 200-mile exclusive economic zone and extends into the country's extended continental shelf area.
In a brief statement on which further comment was not available, Shell NZ says it will operate the permit, assuming it is granted, while China National Offshore Oil Corporation will take a 50 percent share in the venture.
The proposed permit is still subject to government approval and is not among areas previously offered for exploration under the new "block offer" system used to identify areas where exploration would be welcomed.
"Before we start any work in the basin we will conduct a comprehensive impact assessment," Shell NZ chairman Rob Jager says. "Safety and protection of the environment remain our highest priorities."
Shell is also partnering with Austrian oil company OMV on plans to drill exploration wells in the Great South Basin, off the bottom of the South Island, in the summer of 2014-15.