Austrian-based oil and gas company, OMV, says a maintenance project at the Pohokura Platform off the coast of Taranaki will breathe new life into the gas field.
A giant China Oilfield Services (COSL) operated rig pulled up alongside the Pohokura platform, which is located 4km offshore from Motunui, in perfect conditions this morning in the first stage of the project.
Wells and drilling manager Owen Hey said on a tour of the site that the jack-up rig was initially being positioned next to the platform with the help of three tug boats.
Once the rig was beside the Pohokura platform it would give access to the wells, Mr Hey said.
"We'll have generally about 100 people offshore working and they will manage all the equipment and facilities to do the well entry work."
OMV aimed to return production at Pohokura to about 20 percent of New Zealand's natural gas supply.
Mr Hey said that would be achieved by manipulating the existing wells.
"We're basically focussing on a number of wells on the platform. They're mature wells and we basically need to isolate some water production that has come in over time."
He said they would use a small pipe to thread into the well to work at its bottom.
The field's original zones had watered out so they would move to new zones for more production.
Mr Hey said Pohokura, in production since 2005, had no permanent offshore workforce and was run remotely.
"Pohokura is a complete minimum facility concept.
"The upside is it's a very small facility, very efficient, but when we do need to do interventions we need to bring vessels like [this] rig to help us."
Mr Hey said safety also played a part in the minimal design.
"The less equipment we have out here … means we don't have the exposure of people offshore."
Designs similar to Pohokura, which began commercial production in 2006, were becoming more common.
"The communication system here can talk to the communication system in town and for the operator it's no different to being onsite in a room at a production station versus being in a room at the office."
In an earlier statement, OMV's senior vice-president Asia-Pacific Gabriel Selischi said the company planned to invest $500 million to maintain production at the Pohokura and Māui gas fields because there was "considerable potential in them for years to come".
"These fields are not without their challenges, However, and we will be investing considerably to ensure many more years of production.
"With this will come economic activity that will continue to help drive and sustain the Taranaki economy."
OMV bought the fields from Shell as part of a $US578 million ($855.5m) deal in December.