Well being drilled alongside Maui field

Drilling ship Noble Discoverer is on its way from Singapore in a project expected to cost more than $50 million.

Drilling ship Noble Discoverer is on its way from Singapore to drill a well alongside the Maui gas field in Taranaki, in a project expected to cost more than $50 million.

The ship is expected off Taranaki by the end of January to drill at a prospect called Ruru about 40km off the south Taranaki coast.

Most of the cost is to be met by Shell, which holds more than 80% of the exploration licence, while Austrian company OMV holds 10% and Todd Energy 6.25%.

Shell's NZ chairman Rob Jager told the Taranaki Daily News the company was "pretty excited" about the prospect.

Its geological structure looked similar to Maui and drillers would target the same geological zone, known as the Kapuni Formation, that is the source of the Maui gas.

Noble Discoverer will drill to a depth of 4000m in an operation expected to take up to two months, weather permitting.

It is the first true exploration well to be drilled by Shell in this country in 12 years, but in recent times the company has spent millions of dollars re-drilling wells on the Maui-A and Maui-B production platforms in an effort to extend the life of the veteran gasfield.