New data released to aid exploration in southeast New Zealand

GNS Science has produced the latest instalment in a series of new map-based geological data products that help pinpoint areas most prospective for petroleum exploration in New Zealand’s offshore territory.

Developed as part of a four-year MBIE-funded ‘Atlas of Petroleum Prospectivity’ research programme, the freely available data sets are accessible through GNS Science’s Petroleum Basin Explorer web portal, and via New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals in its annual data pack release.

The new Southeast Province data pack covers 180,000 square kilometres of offshore territory to the southeast of South Island, and covers the Canterbury and Great South Basins. It is the second in a series of five data packs that will be released progressively through to the end of 2018.

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We have also included a qualitative ‘geological risk factor’. It provides an assessment of the uncertainty associated with the key petroleum system elements, along with uncertainty associated with the quality of data used in the project

Dr Kyle Bland

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This is the first such set of regional-scale seamless digital data for this area. As well as helping guide petroleum exploration in these basins, the data sets also provide important new constraints and insights into the tectonic evolution of southeast Zealandia during the last 110 million years.

The data pack brings together about four decades of existing geoscience information, augmented by new ‘open-file’ data, on subsurface habitats where oil and gas could potentially have accumulated.

Programme leader and petroleum geologist Kyle Bland said the workstation-ready data packs would help to accelerate decision-making by providing regional-scale information on factors such as sediment thickness, and the distribution of potential source, reservoir, and seal rocks.

“We have also included a qualitative ‘geological risk factor’. It provides an assessment of the uncertainty associated with the key petroleum system elements, along with uncertainty associated with the quality of data used in the project,” Dr Bland said.

Also included is an estimation of the likelihood that potential source rocks have generated petroleum.

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The release of the Northwest and Southeast Province data packs shows that there remain large parts of offshore New Zealand that appear to have all the elements for a working petroleum system

Tusar Sahoo

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Lead compiler, Tusar Sahoo, said the innovative multi-level assessment would be enormously helpful to exploration companies who may be weighing up the merits of looking more closely at several areas.

“The Atlas of Petroleum Prospectivity represents the first time such a unified approach has been applied to New Zealand’s numerous offshore basins,” Mr Sahoo said.

A data pack covering the 220,000-square-kilometre Northwest Province was released last year, and has already seen good uptake from researchers around the world. 

The remaining atlas areas include the Northeast Province (Pegasus-East Coast-Raukumara basins), and a Far Frontiers province covering lesser explored basins in southwest New Zealand, as well as those further from the coast.

“The release of the Northwest and Southeast Province data packs shows that there remain large parts of offshore New Zealand that appear to have all the elements for a working petroleum system,” Mr Sahoo said.

The main users of the digital atlas are companies that are evaluating petroleum prospects globally, companies that are new to New Zealand, companies who are already here and looking for new opportunities, specialist providers that service the exploration industry, and government agencies that administer permit allocations.

Various components of the Southeast Province data pack have already been made available to industry as they were completed, to address immediate information needs.

Graphic by Kyle Bland

Graphic by Kyle Bland