Great South Basin oil find very unlikely

An oil find in the Great South Basin is very unlikely – there’s about a one in three chance of finding gas.

Councillor Jinty MacTavish reports on a Shell Petroleum briefing to Dunedin City Council about offshore exploration (MacTavish leans very Green).

I attend the briefings for the purpose of conveying information back to constituents who wish they had a way of staying informed about plans to drill for hydrocarbons off our coast. With that in mind, here’s the key stuff from today’s briefing – not much that’s new since the last one.

Shell reiterated that, on the basis of the work they have done, they consider the chances of a strike in the Great South Basin as follows:

  • Chance of finding no hydrocarbons = 70%
  • Chance of finding gas = 30%
  • Chance of finding oil = <1%

They explained that if they did strike hydrocarbons, there would be a long lead-in time to any exploitation – likely more than 10 years.

They advised that a formal ‘drill or drop’ decision (to drill an exploration well, or to surrender the permit) will have to be made with regards exploration permit PEP 50119, by 10 January 2014.

Shell will be conducting 2D seismic testing in the northern part of PEP 50119, and in their adjoining exploration permit area PEP 54863 this coming summer, commencing around mid-Jan depending on the availability of vessels.

Seismic testing in the ECS and EEZ is a Permitted Activity under the legislation passed by the Government recently, which means it can go ahead without a resource consent, subject to the company complying with the newly released DOC ‘Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance for Marine Mammals for Seismic Survey Operations’ (available publically online).

Shell spent an awful lot of time reiterating the same (in my view very debatable, when one considers medium-term impacts) message that I have heard at least three times at these briefings, about their “very strong focus on safety and the environment”. There were some questions asked around how their business plan sits with the need to transition rather rapidly away from fossil fuels, given we’re only able to burn about a third of those we’ve already found.

Apparently they’ll get back to us on that one.

This confirms that an oil find is extremely unlikely. This makes the “oil slicks on beaches” fears largely unfounded.

The “need to transition rather rapidly away from fossil fuels” is very debatable. The world cannot currently transition rapidly away from fossil fuels, and it is questionable how much need there is to move to alternatives in the medium term.

Blogs on hydrocarbons

On one blog we have the market approach to phasing off hydrocarbons:

Monbiot says peak oil predictions wrong

As the price of oil and petrol rises, it will both lead to investment in alternative technologies and lead to greater drilling in previously unprofitable areas.

And on another we have the green approach:

A rock and a hot place

If you accept climate change and that, therefore, we’ve got to stop using hydrocarbons, how can you then turn around and enthusiastically endorse the Government’s pro-drilling policies?

We can’t just stop using hydrocarbons (without severe adverse effects).

At the current dependence levels on hydrocarbons and at the current rate of moving to alternative energy sources phasing hydrocarbons out is going to take quite a while. So in the meantime we either have to buy hydrocarbons that are drilled elsewhere, or drill our own.

Have any realistic projections been done on phasing out hydrocarbons? How long will it take even with a concerted effort to move to alternative energies?

What can we afford to do?

And what can we not afford to not do?

If we just stop all drilling in New Zealand we will will just keep buying oil that’s been drilled elsewhere.

I guess it requires not thinking about it too hard.

I’m not sure the Greens have thought hard about all the practical options. But one thing that’s a no brainer is to invest more in energy saving. That will reward us in the long run.