New Zealand's Bakken

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted May 10, 2013

If you think back to just a few short years ago, you might remember that North Dakota – not exactly known for making national headlines – completely transformed. An oil and gas boom like never before swept through the prairies and changed the region forever.

new zealand shale oil rockIt was the Bakken shale formation that exploded and changed the entire industry overnight. And for those of you out there lucky enough to jump on board and ride the Bakken boom in the beginning, it was like perfect harmony – the stars were aligned, the birds were singing, and you, my friend, were spoiled in the riches.

But it couldn’t happen twice, right?

Wrong. There are reports saying that New Zealand could have a shale formation 2x to 3x the size of the Bakken. And better yet: it’s nearly untouched.

The Start of the Boom

Reports coming in are saying New Zealand’s East Coast Basin shale could hold between 12 and 20 billion barrels of oil.

Oil companies from all over the world have found a new place to play.

It started with oil seepages springing up out of the ground – little puddles of oil that look like dollar signs under the right eye. They’re popping up all over; to date, more than 300 have been discovered, and more and more are added each day as the land and shallow waters offshore are surveyed by geologists.

It all started happening rather recently. After the nation experienced an earthquake in 2007, one lone oil seepage rose to the surface, and that’s pretty much all she wrote.

International intrigue spiked. And best of all, the government kindly and freely opens its arms to outside prospects developing the land.

In 2009, royalties for oil and gas shot through the roof, up 470 percent as the virgin landscape caught the eye of major international oil producers. Sound a little familiar?

Licenses are gallantly being awarded by the Kiwi nation – a proud, humble, and giving people who are eager to capitalize on the riches their land provides them.

And North Island’s East Coast Basin, the granddaddy of them all, has had 50 wells drilled to date, most of which have all showed promising results.

All in all, the total number of reserves for New Zealand is well into the billions.

Naturally, with this much potential, the big guns like BP (NYSE: BP), ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), and Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) are planting roots and looking to tap into an all new market of oil and gas.

Lightning Strikes Twice

A discovery like this one, where it seemingly comes out of nowhere, can only be likened to that of the Bakken shale in the U.S. Midwest, so much so that it’s being called “the New Zealand Bakken.”

The Bakken revolutionized the oil and gas industry and helped save a nation’s economy that was decimated and facing certain ruin.

The state of North Dakota, for one, will never be the same. It’s quiet, peaceful landscape of grasslands and rolling hills is now site to the largest producing oil reserve in the country, where production has shot up 600 percent since 2005, and it sports the lowest unemployment rate of all 50 states.

And like the Bakken only a short time ago, New Zealand finds itself in the infancy stages of assessment and development. The only real difference between the two is that the Bakken went unexplored due to technology constraints, whereas New Zealanders had no idea they were sitting on such a goldmine.

But the secret is finally out. And now, with an established ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’ in place that extends Kiwi rights to any reserve 200 miles out to sea, the potential for more oil and gas is profound, to say the least.

Presently, the Taranaki Basin is the only basin that is in production – it covers roughly 118,000 square miles.

There are more than 400 wells in total throughout new Zealand that have been drilled thus far, both onshore and offshore, but none extend beyond the shelf edge. What that signifies is an abundance of more discoveries that could unlock even greater potential.

And the East Coast Basin, with only about one well tapped for every 800,000 acres – all showing significant oil and gas deposits – is still significantly underexplored.

For those who do remember the Bakken when it first took off and were lucky enough to ride the coattails of its success, you’ll probably never forget the ride.

For those who may have missed out, there’s nothing sweeter than redemption and the thrill of victory.

And don’t take my word for it. History is the best predictor of the future.


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