In May 2012, NZEC announced that it had entered into an agreement with Origin Energy Resources NZ (TAWN) Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Origin Energy Limited (ASX: ORG), to acquire strategic upstream and midstream assets in the Taranaki Basin. The agreement was amended a number of times, and on July 30, 2013, NZEC announced that it planned to purchase the assets in a 50/50 partnership with L&M Energy, with L&M contributing $18.25 million toward the $33.5 million purchase price. On October 28, 2013, NZEC and L&M completed the acquisition.
NZEC now owns a 50% interest in three Petroleum Mining Licenses ("TWN Licenses") totalling 23,049 acres in the main production fairway of the Taranaki Basin. NZEC also owns a 50% interest in the Waihapa Production Station, a high-capacity (45 mmcf/day, 25,000 bbl/day) full-cycle production facility that is central to NZEC's permits and includes an extensive network of gathering and sales pipelines. NZEC and L&M formed a 50/50 joint venture to explore, develop and operate the TWN Licenses and the Waihapa Production Station, with NZEC as the operator. NZEC and L&M will collectively pay Origin a 9% royalty on all future hydrocarbon production from the TWN Licenses, and can buy back up to 4% of the royalty at any time by paying Origin $4.25 million per percentage point.
In conjunction with the acquisition, NZEC booked additional reserves and resources, increasing its Proved + Probable (2P) reserves by 150%. NZEC’s 50% share of 2P Reserves attributable to the TWN Licenses, net of royalties, is estimated at 835,000 barrels of oil, 1.4 million cubic feet of natural gas and 47,000 barrels of natural gas liquids, collectively 1,113,000 barrels of oil equivalent (“boe”), with an estimated after tax net present value of $41.5 million (10% discount rate). NZEC’s share of Contingent Resources is estimated at 580,000 boe, with Prospective Resources estimated at 11,706,000 boe.
The Deloitte reserve and resource estimate underscores the prospectivity of the TWN Licenses across multiple formations, with uphole completion and production potential from existing wells and the ability to rapidly drill new wells. Controlling a central oil and gas production facility in the Taranaki Basin also provides NZEC with the strategic opportunity and capacity to independently process production, at reduced operating costs, as well as generate cash flow through third-party processing agreements.
Upon closing of the acquisition, NZEC immediately reactivated an established gas lift system for six existing wells on the TWN Licenses to recommence oil and gas production from the Tikorangi formation. NZEC has also determined that a number of wells that previously produced from the Tikorangi formation have uphole completion potential in the shallower Mt. Messenger formation. Reactivation and uphole completion of these wells will be significantly less expensive and faster than drilling new wells, and economic discoveries will be quickly tied in to the Waihapa Production Station using existing oil and gas gathering pipelines. NZEC's team continues to identify additional production opportunities on the TWN Licenses, from both reactivations and uphole completions, and also plans to drill new wells to the Tikorangi and Mt. Messenger formations.
Development and operating costs are to be funded initially by existing working capital and cash flows from production. The Company’s ability to execute its exploration and development activities is contingent on its financial capacity. The Company is considering a number of options to increase its financial capacity, including increasing cash flow from oil production, additional joint arrangements, commercial arrangements or other financing alternatives.
Owning an interest in the Waihapa Production Station gives NZEC strategic control over gathering, processing and sales infrastructure in the Taranaki Basin and provides NZEC with the ability to quickly bring on near-term production additions, reduce full-cycle development lead times and execute on longer-term growth plans. In addition, as the only open-access midstream facility in the Taranaki Basin, the Waihapa Production Station offers business opportunities for processing third-party gas, liquids, oil and water. The Waihapa Production Station is central to NZEC’s producing wells and inventory of exploration prospects, thereby reducing transportation and processing costs for NZEC’s oil and gas production.
The Waihapa Production Station and associated infrastructure includes:
- 45 MMcf/d gas processing, gas compression and LPG extraction facility;
- 51 km 8-inch gas sales pipeline from the Waihapa Production Station to the Stratford Gas Power Generation Plant then terminating in New Plymouth;
- 59 km of oil/gas mixed product pipelines including gas lift lines;2
- 5,000 bbl/d oil processing facility;
- 49 km oil sales pipeline from the Waihapa Production Station to the Omata Tank Farm, capable of transporting up to 15,500 bbl/d; and
- 18,000 bbl/d water disposal processing system.