Tamarind Resources has been cleared to undertake a round of development drilling at the Tui oil field off the Taranaki coast.

A three-member board of inquiry has approved the company’s plan to drill up to five side-track wells from up to four of the existing wells in the field 50 kilometres offshore.

The board found that the activities would have no more than a minor adverse effect on the environment, except for relatively short and transient events.

“The event agreed to constitute the greatest hazard is that associated with loss of well control. However, we find that to be of such a low probability, and with sufficient risk management procedures in place, as to constitute a negligible risk in terms of both the activity under consideration and the time to complete that activity,” the board said in a summary of its 179-page decision.

“No known rare or endangered species will be affected.”

Tamarind’s New Zealand country manager, Jason Peacock, says the firm is pleased by the decision and the board’s transparent and well-managed process.

The company plans to drill three side-tracks during this campaign and potentially a fourth. If successful that should deliver another 6-8 million barrels and extend Tui’s life into the mid-2020s.

The board, comprising chair David Hill, Glenice Paine and Dan McClary, heard Tamarind’s application in November in a two-and-a-half day hearing managed by the Environmental Protection Authority.  

Tui lies in about 125 metres of water and was the country’s biggest liquids producer when it was commissioned in mid-2007. It delivered almost 13.5 million barrels of oil in 2008, but that was down to 843,000 barrels in 2017, the latest annual government data available.

Kuala Lumpur-headquartered Tamarind is an expert in late-life assets. Tamarind bought out the former venture partners – AWE, New Zealand Oil & Gas and Pan Pacific Petroleum – in 2017. Low oil prices at the time meant the field could have faced decommissioning from the end of 2019.

Last year it booked the near-new Hai Yang Shi You 982, a modern semi-submersible rig, for the project.

It is 104 metres long, has accommodation for 180 people and can operate in 1,500 metres of water. It is also a zero-discharge rig, meaning no storm water run-off or deck drainage goes into the sea without first passing through the rig’s treatment systems.

Peacock said operator COSL Drilling Europe earlier this year formally requested a change to the Prospector, a sister rig of the HYSY 982.

The rig is already in transit from Norway and should get to the Tui site in late May or early June. Drilling is expected to take about 110 days, he said.

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