The New Caledonia Basin is remote and situated some 250 to 1,000km to the North-west of the North Island within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelf (ECS). The area covers 147,000km2 and is relatively unknown from a scientific perspective.
The prospecting permit is valid until December 2016. The permit requires mapping of the seafloor by Multi-Beam Echo Sounding (MBES) and it also requires imaging of the earth’s subsurface (below the seafloor) with a 2D seismic survey.
This mapping will contribute to New Zealand’s Ocean Survey 20/20 programme, which aims to improve knowledge of its ocean territory, including within the EEZ and ECS, by 2020.
The MBES survey was completed in August – September 2014 with a New Zealand research vessel. Shell voluntarily included marine mammal and seabird observers on the survey to help gather information about this remote area.
The 2D seismic survey was safely conducted between December 2015 and March 2016 and was one of the largest and remotest ever undertaken by Shell. The marine crew for the survey was from New Zealand and survey expenditure injected some $5 million into the New Zealand economy. A highlight of the survey was the inclusion of Māori Marine Mammal Observers that Shell had supported for their training. They played an important role in helping to ensure that the survey was conducted in accordance with the Department of Conservation’s Code of Conduct to minimise potential disturbance to marine mammals.
Shell (37.5%) is the operator of the permit and CNOOC International Limited (37.5%) and Anadarko New Zealand Company (25%) are joint venture parties.
Unlike an exploration permit, a prospecting permit provides Shell and the JV parties with knowledge, but provides no future rights to further energy resource exploration (e.g. drilling) in this area.