20 Mar 2015

All rosy for the oil and gas industry?

5:22 am on 20 March 2015

A new report says the value of the oil and gas industry is soaring.

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Photo: 123RF

The number of jobs created by the industry has risen by 40 percent in five years.

Its monetary value has also risen.

But the industry concedes the faltering price of crude oil and some setbacks in oil exploration could cloud an otherwise sunny outlook.

The report was a five year update of a publication last done in 2010.

It is called The Wealth Beneath Our Feet - The Next Steps, and was prepared for the economic promotional organisation, Venture Taranaki.

That group's chief executive Stuart Trundle said the growth in the oil and gas industry had been huge.

"The amount of people employed by the industry has has grown from 7,700 in 2010 to just over 11,700, which is a net gain of 4000 people."

All this is just for Taranaki, which is just one of 18 oil search regions in New Zealand.

The chief executive of the Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Cameron Madgwick, said he hoped these other areas could become productive as well.

"Last year's Government block offer attracted major new international players to this market, so they are eyeing up the opportunities globally and they are choosing New Zealand."

Yet, so far, the regions other than Taranaki have not yielded anything, and companies have spent as much as a hundred million dollars searching for oil and gas and not finding it.

Moreover, the price of oil has fallen from $US115 to $US54 per barrel of benchmark Brent Crude, limiting the economic return to oil companies.

Mr Madgwick said New Zealand was not immune to the impact of these low oil prices.

But he said New Zealand petroleum exploration companies were here for the long-haul and so they must adapt their exploration policies to suit current conditions.

Mr Trundled added that the strike rate by the oil and gas industry had slipped in recent years - its total contribution to GDP is up only slightly despite the big increase in staff numbers - and he is quite outspoken about this.

"Our recent record of offshore exploration hasn't been as successful as it has been in the past."

"And so with record levels of promotion by government, let's keep drilling those holes but we actually need to find something other than world class mud at the bottom."

While acknowledging these shortcomings, the Venture Taranaki report also boasted many successes.

It said oil is the country's fourth biggest export earner, and that oil industry workers learn their skills here and then use them to win oil contracts overseas, adding futher to the oil industry's success in exports.