Just as the Maari oil field 80 km off the Taranaki coast was being shut down temporary for vessel repair, a drilling rig nick-named ‘Tin Can IV’ has begun drilling the Manaia-2 well nearby. “Recently refurbished, the aging rig Kan Tan IV earned its nick-name from a history of problems, disrepair and questionable conditions, abroad and in NZ,” explained Catherine Cheung, Researcher of Climate Justice Taranaki.
The semi-submersible ‘Tin Can’ will also be in charge of drilling ‘wildcat’ exploratory wells in the Matuku permit (51906) area some 45 km northwest of the Maari platform, and in the Te Whatu permit (51313) to the south. ‘Tin Can’ is also contracted by AWE to drill two wells north of the Tui oilfield. At the Maari field, five development wells will be drilled by Ensco 107, a jack-up rig.
In all, the Austrian oil company OMV, lead owner of the Maari and Matuku permits, plans to drill 8-10 wells off Taranaki between now and the end of 2014. Each exploratory well will produce 300-530 m3 of drill cuttings, to be discharged at sea. The five development wells will produce over 800 m3 of synthetic-based drill cuttings containing traces of hazardous chemicals. These will be offloaded for landfarming near Inglewood or treated onboard then discharged at sea.
“It’s hard to imagine either disposal method being best practice. And with the regional council’s recent warning that Taranaki’s landfarms will be filling up ‘in a matter of months’, would discharging overboard become the preferred option? How would that affect the marine environment?” asked Cheung.
Notably, OMV was responsible for two oil spills off Taranaki just three years ago, one reaching as far as the Kapiti Coast. And in 2007, AWE spilled 23 tonnes of oil from its operation at the Tui oilfield onto 15 km of coast near Okato. In fact, Taranaki has suffered eight oil spills and many other accidents associated with the petroleum industry in the past ten years alone.
An online petition is currently open, calling on OMV, AWE and partner companies to halt their planned drilling. Climate Justice Taranaki urges all to sign the petition and tell the companies they are not welcome here. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-the-matuku-well
“Science tells us that we urgently need to get off fossil fuel consumption if catastrophic climate change is to be averted. History tells us that well-blowouts and oil spills are disastrous to marine life, fishery and tourism. Yet the government seems dead keen to make it as easy as possible for oil and gas companies to continue extracting the dirty stuff.
The newly proposed law change to prevent public say over offshore exploratory drilling under the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf Act is a case in point. We call on the public to submit to the Ministry for the Environment now, with objections on this proposal. Tell the government that we want a future based on sustainability and justice, not one ruined by short-sightedness and greed,” concluded Cheung.