Maui oil and gas field gains 35-year operating consent

The consents follow hearings by a decision-making committee of the Environmental Protection Authority.

New Zealand's largest and longest-producing offshore oil and gas field, Maui, has gained marine resource consents allowing it to operate for another 35 years.

The consents follow hearings by a decision-making committee (DMC) of the Environmental Protection Authority, the first time the Maui field has been dealt with under new regulations governing economic activity in the country's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The EEZ is the world's fourth largest and extends from the 12-mile nautical limit off the New Zealand coast out to a distance of 200 kilometres.

The marine consent has been to Shell Todd Oil Services (STOS) for 35 years "to undertake activities relating to extracting, producing and transporting natural gas and condensate in and from the Māui natural gas field."

The application was opposed by environmental groups concerned about the impact of potential oil spills but the outcome is unsurprising, given the Maui field has been producing without serious incident since the 1970s.

"After considering all of the information provided, the DMC has decided that granting the marine consent will accord with the sustainable management purpose of the (EEZ) Act," the committee's decision says. "The overall effect of the operations at the Maui offshore facilities, including the proposed drilling programme, on the environment and existing interests was found to be negligible to minor.

"Many of the effects identified were found to be localised and of a short duration. The DMC considers that adverse effects can be appropriately avoided, remedied or mitigated through the imposition of conditions on the marine consent and the requirements of other marine management regimes."

The existing Maui A and B production platforms and all associated structures and submarine pipelines are covered by the consent.

This is the second publicly notified application for a marine consent to be granted by the EPA. The first was granted to Austrian oil and gas producer OMV for operations at its Maari field, also offshore from Taranaki.

DMCs have turned down two seabed mining applications under the new regime, one to mine for ironsands in the Taranaki Bight, lodged by TransTasman Resources, and the second to mine phosphate nodules on the ocean floor on the Chatham Rise, some 400 kilometres east of Christchurch, by Chatham Rock Phosphate.

TTR has subsequently applied for a prospecting permit covering a 4,436 square kilometre area in the EEZ along the West Coast of the South Island with a view to assessing the potential to mine "iron rich mineral sands known to host ilmenite, zircon, garnet and gold."

TTR and CRP are assessing their options for their declined marine consent applications, with both indicating new applications are more likely than appeals against the decisions already received.


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