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Texas of the South Seas?

Written By: - Date published: 10:57 am, January 17th, 2012 - 132 comments
Categories: energy - Tags:

Every few years, since the 70s, they’ve promised the great New Zealand oil boom is coming. It ain’t going to happen. If there is lots of oil, it’s deepsea and expensive. And they haven’t found it in 40 years of looking. We have a worse production-consumption ratio now then the 80s.

If the foreign oil companies did hit the jackpot the currency would skyrocket, our domestic exporters would be made uncompetitive and would die leading to unemployment (oil doesn’t actually create many jobs) and making the government dependent on oil for its revenue, most of the profits would head offshore and we would become a petrostate. Our public policy, by necessity, would be all about keeping the oilers happy and the royalty revenue coming (bye bye environment and labour standards).

Be careful what your wish for.

132 comments on “Texas of the South Seas? ”

  1. Peter 1

    Yep, that’s an accurate assessment. Southland lignite to liquids actually has a far higher chance of becoming a reality than much of the deep sea oil. The immense cost of developing those deep sea reserves to full production (along with distance to market) will be the reason there hasn’t been any work done thus far.

    Any money spent on deep water oil is far better spent on reducing New Zealand’s dependence on imported fuels, and transitioning down to a steady-state economy.

    • insider 1.1

      Distance, difficulty and cost are not an issue if there is money to be made – look at Alaska and Siberia for examples. The biggest issue is the size of the prize. That is most likely the issue in NZ.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        The size of the prize goes down as the size of the costs and risks go up.

        Drilling on terra firma is almost always cheaper than deep water drilling.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2

        There isn’t any money to be made (not that there’s such a thing as making money). ATM, it’s obvious that the most the world will pay for oil is ~US$100/barrel. Chances are that it will cost more than that to pull it up from the places and depths that they’re looking for it.

    • Blighty 1.2

      they’ve looked for oil a number of times in the South Basin and found nothing of note. I think it was two or three summers ago was going to be the greatest drilling season ever down there but they couldn’t even find any likely targets on the seismic data and they gave up.

      The nice thing about the lignite is we (for now) own the company with that owns the reserves and we can extract and process it ourselves. And why not, at the same time, invest in becoming world leaders in carbon capture and storage? We can use the lignite to replace imported fertiliser and liquid fuels here (both with lignite to liquids and electricity generation) and sell the CCS tech overseas – import less, export more, country wins.

      • insider 1.2.1

        Why not become world leaders in personal computing and solving the common cold at the same time? I mean, we all have one so B has to follow A doesn’t it? How have we got on with selling synthetic petrol and geothermal energy? It’s far more likely that we will be buyers of the technology.

      • John D 1.2.2

        There are no working commercial scale CCS projects in the world. NZ can’t afford the risk of pouring money down the drain on projects like this.

        • Colonial Viper

          Exactly CCS is not going to save us.

          I have a very simple point of view – if a technology is not already commercialised and implemented in use on a broad scale – its too late to bet your life on it.

          Hydro and windpower are good. As is solar thermal and PV in some areas.

          But fusion, thorium, etc. there is no time left to develop and deploy the tech. Humanity is, within the next 5 years, out of cheaply affordable oil.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Much easier and cheaper to convert lignite to diesel 😉

    • Lostinsuburbia 2.1

      True but the GHG emissions are staggering. Heaven forbid we ever need to do it.

    • Lostinsuburbia 2.2

      True but the greenhouse gas emissions are staggering. Heaven forbid we ever need to do it.

  3. insider 3

    TAG is a smallish company. It is probably not going to do complex drilling on its own. I’d interpret Its comments as a sales pitch to get others to share the risk. The views of sales reps, surprisingly enough, are not always the most trustworthy when it comes to areas in which they have a direct financial interest.

  4. nadis 4

    Be careful what your wish for.


    • insider 4.1


    • felix 4.2

      Don’t be silly, the idea of investing the profits of a country’s natural resources into the people of the country is anathema to the National/Act govt.

      All profits from mineral extraction under a right-wing govt go straight to the international corporations doing the extracting.

      If you’re serious about emulating the Norwegian experience you need to ensure that we have left-wing govts in place to do the investment.

      • james 111 4.2.1

        Great Felix can you tell me what great investments a Left wing government has done in New Zealand. Lets look at the last one brought a rusty train set for around 750 million when it was only worth 300 million tops. The Aussies were laughing all the way to the bank. Then we hear before Christmas that asset value of the Kiwi rails rusty train set was written down by 3.5 billion. What a turn around. If some rich prick CEO or board members wasted company money like that they would be marched out the door. Now who bought the Rusty Train set Michael Cullen, and Winston. You want us to trust a left wing government in New Zealand with investment I mean reallly. Governments only consume money they dont ever earn it in an efficent way

        • Gosman

          I especially love the investment plans of the Labour party at the last election. Where we borrow money on the international capital markets to invest in the much riskier international equity markets. Just what I want in my Government, the sort of investment strategy that would give any self respecting retail bank manager a coronary.

          • Colonial Viper

            The funny thing is that Bill English borrowed money to payout the speculators in Southern Canterbury Finance.

            What you accused Labour of planning to do – Bill English ACTUALLY DID!

          • mik e

            goose its better than just giving it away to SCF etcetera
            Australia scheme has been going longer than ours and alows people to retire at 60 our scheme stsrts at 65 and pays much lower any wonder our ppeople are heading to AUS. while we have stay here and put up with short sighted idiots like gooseboy.

        • Colonial Viper

          A massive stock of quality state housing
          All the forests of the 20th century which ended up being worth hundreds of millions
          Ports, airports, roads, rail and other logistics systems which enable commerce
          Schools which supply an educated work force ready to add economic value
          etc etc

          What are you James 111, a moron?

          The only reason you can call KiwiRail a “rusty trainset” is because your greedy privateer Australian corporate mates treated it like a train set and ran it down like a toy, instead of managing it like the strategic economic asset to NZ that it is.

          But since they’re Australian investors what the fuck would they care about this country.

          • james 111

            You mean all the Forests in New Zealand being sold off to American Corporations so they can claim Carbon Credits. Now there is a scam and half for you.How is State Housing an Investment if you can never realise that Investment. It just ends up as book entry that cant be sold

            • felix

              “How is State Housing an Investment if you can never realise that Investment. It just ends up as book entry that cant be sold”

              Ah, the paucity of right-wing thought. Your comment demonstrates my point beautifully.

              Right-wingers only recognise an “investment” if someone’s squeezing a dollar out of it.

              Housing a population? Worthless apparently. Hence right-wing govts will never make the kind of investments in society that the Scandinavians have.

            • mik e

              jturd its an investment in the future health physical and mental and financial of poor New Zealanders like John Key.You wouldn’t have him as your celebRWNJ PM now would you!
              JTURD your just plain dumb.

        • lefty

          Take a look at our economic history James 111

          Almost every area of economic activity has been started by government because the private sector could not get its act together.

          Our electicity, telecommunications, railway and roads were built and paid for by government.

          Our vast planation forests were planted by government and the first pulp and paper mills built by government.

          Our agriculture became viable after government invested millions of dollars over a long period in cheap loans to get farmers started, paid for research into crops and animals which farmers accessed free, legislated for marketing and processing monopolies to sell agriculural produce and protected local markets.

          Our tourism industry got a kick start through government owned hotels and promotion paid for by the government.

          Until relatively recently most of our housing stock was built through state housing and governemt provided first home loans.

          Our ports were publicly owned and developed as were our universities and schools.

          And so it goes in almost every aspect of the economy.

          In fact there would have been fuck all investment in the economy over the years if it had been left up to the private sector. All they have been good for is taking the publicly funded investments and running them down so the state has to buy them back again.

          Since the state has taken to selling off its assets and trusting the private sector to generate wealth we have got poorer and poorer.

          And private sector CEO’s don’t get punished for wasting money. At worst they get a golden handshake and move on to do the same thing somewhere else.

          • Draco T Bastard


            Private enterprise makes up a small amount of the economy. When governments try to make it a large part of the economy we end up with poverty, deprivation and enterprise actively being held back.

        • mik e

          Jturd kwirail is making a better profit than most private companies and would have made another $ 30 million last year but for Canterbury quakes and the pike river disaster.
          then its competing against nationals heavily subsidized road transport sector as well!
          Ex prominent Nactional cabinet ministers handing out corporate welfare to their mates to under mine our economy and our rail system which still manages to make a healthy profit Jturd!

        • Jackal

          james 111

          Lets look at the last one brought a rusty train set for around 750 million when it was only worth 300 million tops. The Aussies were laughing all the way to the bank. Then we hear before Christmas that asset value of the Kiwi rails rusty train set was written down by 3.5 billion.

          So I take it you’re not in favour of privatisation then? What did you expect the Labour government to do… leave New Zealand without a viable rail network? After it was privatised, it was asset-stripped… and there’s nothing to stop that happening to our power companies either.

    • Blighty 4.3

      Norway kept the profits from their reserves by using state-owned drillers and carefully didn’t repatriate a lot of the proceeds (which would have sen their currency through the roof), instead, they used it to buy overseas assets, which will help fund Norway for generations. they did it bloody cleverly. what are the odds we would do it the same?

      • insider 4.3.1

        It’s not as simple as that. Norway uses a lot of foreign companies to exploit its resources. Phillips drilled their first field. All the majors are there making lots of money. Statoil has about 60% of production. It’s also partially privatised similar to the plans for energy companies here.

        But you can have soveriegn wealth funds and build your own global oil company when you have a very rich oil province in your waters. That allows you to write the rule book your way. NZ doesn’t, so we have to do things differently to get things done.

        • felix

          i.e. we might as well just give it all away to the multinationals in return for a handful of jobs because a) that’s as good as you can imagine and b) that’s what your ideology demands anyway.

          • insider

            No I’m all in favour of maximising benefit. It’s just we are currently a price taker and Norway a price maker. Find 10b barrels of oil and we might change that.

            • felix

              Nah, find 10b barrels of oil and you’d be arguing for the rights of the oil companies ahead of your fellow citizens.

              It’s in your nature.

        • John D

          Norway is a fabulously wealthy country, with absolutely heaps of jobs in oil and related sectors (e.g IT and engineering infrastructure).

          Aberdeen in Scotland also has experienced jobs booms due to the Oil business. To suggest that it doesn’t create many jobs is somewhat off the mark.

        • mik e

          NZ under a Labour Govt lead by Norman kirk retained 40% ownership in the Maui and Kapuni gas feilds National is only taking a meagre 1% wow game changing its a joke.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    Boyfriend says that there were various drilling rigs offshore Oamaru for a while many years ago. They did find oil resources but at the time it was decided they were uneconomic. Now that oil is $100/barrel, those sorts of resources start to become the low-hanging fruit.

    • queenstfarmer 5.1

      That’s right. Had a similar discussion with an oil-rig engineer (of all people) who said that there are huge, well-known oil reserves – decades of supply – that have until recently been ignored because it was either (a) too expensive to extract, and/or (b) not technically possible. But with oil prices high, and with greatly improved technology / techniques, the available supply is actually increasing.

      Of course, the downside is greater risk eg the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        the available supply is actually increasing.

        Not compared to existing field depletion rates + increasing demand from the BRICS its not.

      • Peter 5.1.2

        The available supply isn’t increasing, it’s decreasing. Over half the available oil on the planet is gone, and the remaining half, is as you say, difficult and expensive to extract. Of the many constraints on extracting “hard oil”, the most important one is this: as oil prices rise above a certain threshold, usually around $90-$100 a barrel, the global economy crashes, thus delaying the investment decisions needed to bring those oil fields online in the future.

        If it was a simple continual rise in oil price, similar to the planet’s CO2 levels, it would be simple to make investment decisions based off this. Instead it’s a boom and bust curve, with ever increasing volatility.

        • insider

          SO what has happened to production levels in the last 3-5 years?

          • Peter

            Real liquids production has flat-lined on a bumpy plateau. What is interesting however is the double-counting of fuels, particularly where one liquid fuel (oil) is then used as a feedstock for another liquid fuel (oil from tar sands for instance). That double counting has allowed the IEA to show increasing production per year, although it’s a fiction.

            • insider

              Sounds like nonsense because you appear to be mixing refined fuel use with crude production. two separate issues. Where and how does this cumulative effect arise?

              • Colonial Viper

                How can they be two separate issues? Large quantities of refined fuels are needed to power the extraction of conventional and unconventional crude and its subsequent processing.

                Silly billy. It seems you haven’t thought about this in the slightest.

                • insider

                  Do you know the difference between production and consumption? How can the production of crude possibly be confused/double counted with the consumption of refined fuel?

              • Lanthanide

                Say we produce 50m barrels of conventional oil. Then we use 10m of those barrels to produce another 30m barrels of tar sands oil.

                All up, IEA would publish that we produced 80m barrels. Which we did. But 10m of those were directly used up in producing the 30m, so the net production was truly only 70m.

                For an extreme example, if we produced 90m barrels of oil and then used 80m of them to produce another 90m barrels, would you say we had produced a total of 180m barrels, or 100m?

                This of course has been going on for as long as an international oil market has existed: the oil rigs, tankers etc are all fueled by oil products. I don’t know enough about heavy oil extraction to suggest whether it uses significantly more conventional oil to produce than other sources.

                Another similar point is that the energy density of the oil has been decreasing over time. We’re now producing more and more sour heavy crude, which requires more work to process into usable fuel and simply doesn’t produce as much of the useful light distillates and many more of the heavy less-useful ones.

                I remember reading a post a couple of years ago on the oil drum where someone noticed that the apparent weight of oil was increasing over time. That is, the production figures of tons / barrels was slowly creeping upwards. I didn’t go back to read if there was any consensus as to what this meant or how to explain it.

                • Peter

                  That’s a good summary. On heavy oil, even as the grades of crude shift from light and sweet to heavy and sour, the energy return on energy invested is still heavily positive, but it is dropping. I have heard that for some deepwater fields, it’s getting as low as 1:10, which is comparable with the best of wind power. Don’t even get me started on tar sands, or coal to liquid, which is around 2:1 or worse.

            • Jackal


              That double counting has allowed the IEA to show increasing production per year, although it’s a fiction.

              The other issue is that oil companies and government’s are publicly over-estimating the size of oil discoveries to gain enough investment and interest to have them exploited. It’s an illegal practice in most countries but still happens. Therefore the potential negative effects from this, peak oil and the type of manipulations you mention are huge.

              The amount of new oil discovered has been falling since the 1960’s and now with extraction becoming slower because of decreasing yields and increased potential for accidents because they’re exploring areas previously thought of as too dangerous, the entire oil and gas industry is on shaky ground.

              You wouldn’t catch me investing in it in a million years.

          • Blighty

            Production has been flat since 2004.

            2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
            80568 81485 81729 81544 82015 80278 82095

            That’s les than a 2% rise in 7 years.

            Think about that. prices have doubled and production has remained flat.

            If the price of fizzy drinks doubled, more fizzy drinks would come on to the market. The fact that no new oil production has shown up tells us it’s not out there. Sure, there will be a million or so barrels per day more than can be brought to market, but then we’ll hit the wall again and get a price spike.

            • insider

              Those numbers don’t match the EIA, IEA or OPEC data with production up at 87mbd

            • infused

              Notice how it hasn’t gone down, either.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Notice how we’ve been telling you for several years now that Peak Oil will be a lumpy plateau for a few years and then global production will start to slump?

      • Lanthanide 5.1.3

        “well-known oil reserves – decades of supply”

        Well I’m *very* sceptical of that, unless he means “decades of supply for New Zealand”, not decades of global supply. Or he’s talking about things that aren’t actually oil, like tar sands and oil shale.

        Norway has recently discovered two huge new fields with up to 1.2B barrels of recoverable oil.

        Sounds like a lot, right? It’s only 38 days worth of global consumption.

        • queenstfarmer

          Well here’s what good ol’ Wikipedia shows:

          Which seems to bear out this from BP:

          World proved oil reserves in 2010 were sufficient to meet 46.2 years of global production, down slightly from the 2009 R/P ratio because of a large increase in world production; global proved reserves rose slightly last year.

          • Lanthanide

            I know what the world reserves are.

            You said that the oil-rig engineer said “that have until recently been ignored”. I took this to mean “ginormous fields sitting out there that we’re vaguely aware of but haven’t bothered doing much research into them yet”, as is apparently the case in these (mythical?) fields off the east coast of the north island.

            Proved reserves on oil companies books are quite different.

            • queenstfarmer

              Quite right. I mean “ignored” in the sense of not being commercially exploited (or whatever the industry terminology is).

              • Lanthanide


                Although I’ll also note that the majority of those proved reserves are in fields that are being pumped now, or in the same basin.

          • Colonial Viper

            lol qstf, is that 46.2 years of global production at current rates of demand?

            You do know that in 20 years from now world population is expected to rise from 7B to 8B? And then rise to 9B by 2050.

            Don’t you think that is going to reduce that 46.2 year figure just a tad?

            Say down to 30-35 years?

            NB long before 35 years is up, prices for the remaining oil will be so high that most people will have given up their cars, and given up flying.

            • insider

              Yes but 40 years ago very learned people were saying we would run out in 40 years time, same 40 years before that. The reality is a bit more complex.

              • Peter

                Ah no. 40 years ago a few people predicted exactly what we are currently seeing. 40 years before that, no one considered the possibility of fossil fuels depleting.

                Almost no one considered the possibility of oil depletion until M. King Hubbert did his work in the 1950s. He was accurate for the United States to within a year (1973), and if you leave out the discovery of the North Slope and North Sea (reserves he didn’t foresee, and which have now peaked as well), he was accurate for the world peak as well.

                Before that, you have to basically go back to William Stanley Jevons in the 1860s who got worried about British coal production peaking. Which it did, around 1916.

                I did a Masters thesis on this issue. Did you?

                • queenstfarmer

                  Before that, you have to basically go back to William Stanley Jevons in the 1860s who got worried about British coal production peaking. Which it did, around 1916.

                  Good point. I wonder if there were people at that time saying that Britain would grind to a halt and standards of living would collapse because of “peak coal”?

                  • McFlock

                    Possibly, but there was a new massive energy source emerging as a geopolitical objective in the early 20thC – oil. In fact Oil is much more suitable as an energy source than coal. So no worries.
                    There doesn’t seem to be a similar replacement for oil, though. Especially one that can power a car or a truck. LNG maybe as a weening agent, but still… 

                  • Lanthanide

                    McFlock is correct.

                    The interesting thing about the history of energy sources is that initially it was manpower. Then it became trees – chopping down forests and burning them. Europe rapidly deforested and I’ve read some estimates that said if coal hadn’t been discovered then there was only about 50 years left worth of trees and then europe would have been practically barren.

                    Anyway coal replaced trees. Then whale oil somewhat supplemented and replaced coal for some uses. Then luckily we found oil so we stopped killing the whales.

                    There’s no clear indication of what will replace oil.

                    • John D

                      There is already the possibility of electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars. Not sure what percentage of oil goes into transport but it must be sizable. I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet

                    • Macro

                      Actually McFlock is far from correct.
                      Are you unaware of “peak oil”?
                      The next source has to be alternative energies in the form of wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal and the most easily obtainable – reducing our energy requirements by more efficient use.
                      Resorting to more and more fossil fuels only exacerbates an already dangerous level of atmospheric GHGs.
                      Hence the stupidity of the “govt’s” resource policy.

                    • McFlock

                      There is already the possibility of electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars.
                      Without some gobsmacking new technology the energy in a tank of petrol (forget diesel) is not going to be matched by energy in a fuel cell or a battery. And then, if you’re using straight batteries, the recharge time is still an issue compared to a pumping station.
                      And then there’s real freight haulage to deal with – trains, trucks, ships and planes.
                      I’m not in the “back to the stone age” camp, but I think the chances are pretty big that we’ll have a serious energy depletion issue – much more than we have at the moment.

                    • insider

                      There’s no clear technical need for a replacement. There are trillions and trillions of barrels of unexploited oils – about 9t oil and 3t heavy. Shale gives another 2 or 3t. Global average resource recovery rates are less than 25%. There is huge scope for growth and development. A 1% improvement is equivalent to 3 years global demand.

                    • Jackal


                      I think the chances are pretty big that we’ll have a serious energy depletion issue – much more than we have at the moment.

                      Yep! And it’s going to slam countries like New Zealand who’s economy relies on international trade from production that heavily relies on petroleum. We are seriously unprepared for the ramifications thanks to climate change deniers like John Key having their heads buried in the sand.

                      Developments in alternatives can only help if we start to implement them.


                      There’s no clear technical need for a replacement. There are trillions and trillions of barrels of unexploited oils – about 9t oil and 3t heavy. Shale gives another 2 or 3t.

                      You can’t deny a scientifically quantified fact that there are good technical reasons to replace our reliance on oil. Like it or not, we’re going to run out of the stuff. Many of the technical reasons to replace petroleum are defined by what generation you live in… with the current decisions not to change the status quo being selfishly made by older generations.

                      The effects of peak oil are being felt now, but in a few years they will be far more apparent. There’s certainly many environmental and political reasons… increased wars for oil perhaps the best reason to replace petroleum products with the various alternatives available.

                    • McFlock

                      There’s no clear technical need for a replacement.
                      Apart from the fact that the price is skyrocketing which adds inflation to already struggling economies. So even if we accept your Edisonian perspective, we need something more reliable and cheaper.

                    • insider

                      Sure, I was assuming no such breakthrough was on the horizon. If something better comes along lets take it.

                    • McFlock

                      So your position is that the primary energy source of the global economy will become even more prohibitively expensive (even though there is enough to last generations), so we still need a replacement?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      There are trillions and trillions of barrels of unexploited oils – about 9t oil and 3t heavy. Shale gives another 2 or 3t.

                      BULLSHIT. This stuff exists only in the imagination of cornucopians, and anyways it is a complete misnomer describing the shite as “oil”. Its like describing the Alberta tar sands as ‘oil sands’.

                      Its not oil sands. The resource is bitumen. Just like footpath. Not really “oil” is it.

                    • insider

                      I’ve made no comment on price or the desirability of oil, just it’s not about to run out but if something better turns up, then why not take it? On price I believe the relative increase in fuel in the 70s was far higher than recent changes, but open to challenge as have not looked at it

                    • lprent []

                      Offhand, I don’t think that the 70’s price rises were bigger because they were less sustained. They looked bigger because they were unexpected and accompanied with high inflation. But it was only a few years ago that I could overfill the tank on $50. Now it is nearly at $120.

                      Ummm mutter…

                      From here. The red line is the interesting one. It is the one that shows the effective cost after inflation…

                      Umm I was wrong. Not quite up to the 1978 shock yet.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I agree with you. This world will never run out of oil. Someone determined enough will always be able to process and fill a few thousand barrels of oil.

                      But, as EROEI falls below 2:1, and a resulting litre of petrol passes $10/L (2012 dollars) it will be oil that the 99.9% will not be able to afford.

                    • McFlock

                      Normally when people say “sure”, it implies agreement.
                      Anyway, here is the history of oil prices. So yeah, it’s about where it was in 73. The interesting thing is that the 70s oil shock prices are jagged spikes as aresult of specific events. The price rise after 2003 is much more gradual. And now it’s beginning to look like oil wants to stay above $100/b, notwithstanding negative shocks like the drop in demand because of the GFC.
                      Normally, if prices go up, then surely the market believes that production will go up? Hasn’t really done that.

                  • insider

                    That was one of Jevon’s concerns, or at least britain’s leadership. It peaked in 1913 at about half the volume he predicted though most was exported. At about that time Britain was building a new class of fast battleships that could only be made workable with new oil engines, which led to Churchill guaranteeing the navy a global supply and thus the start of the Anglo Iranian oil co.

                  • queenstfarmer

                    OK having done some quick research, here is a very interesting article by Lord Kelvin in 1902, predicting that windmills must be the future source of power:

                    To predict that the world’s industrial progress will one day be halted and then rolled back in primitive methods is not a very daring prophecy when the conditions are studied closely.

                    Coal is king of the industrial world. The king’s reign is limited. Sooner or later, it has been estimated that the world’s supply of coal will have been exhausted…

                    Perplexed humanity confronted with the possibility of its industrial machinery being stopped for want of power, will be forced to turn from earth to air…

                    Of particular interest is that he mentions wind, tide, hydro and biofuel power, but not oil. Wasn’t on the radar. Perhaps this is something to note by those people who doubt that science will discover a suitable replacement for oil (McFlock’s 9.13pm for example).

                    • insider

                      Kelvin was very conservative in his reception to new ideas in his later years, despite his brilliance. He made great pronouncements like ‘radio will never catch on’, ‘X-rays will prove to be a hoax’, ‘There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement’, Writing to Niagara Falls Power Company: “Trust you will avoid the gigantic mistake of alternating current.”

                    • RedLogix

                      Perhaps this is something to note by those people who doubt that science will discover a suitable replacement for oil

                      Yes that is directly from the dominant ‘progress forever’ narrative which most people use to make sense of the world.

                      The problem is that right now science doesn’t have a single CLUE what that new discovery might be. There is simply nothing capable of replacing oil in sufficient quantity and in a suitable timeframe.

                      The progress from wood, to coal, to oil and gas were all just variations on stored sunlight in the form of carbon fuels. There really are no new variations on that idea waiting to be discovered.

                      Nuclear fission is a dead end.

                      And while various nuclear fusion technologies hold potential, nothing looks useful in a sensible time-frame. While a break-through cannot be ruled out, billions of dollars and decades of research have merely proven that the task is immensely more difficult that we imagined. Not encouraging, and not something to bet the farm on.

                      Which kind of leaves renewables, which are do-able, but demand some significant changes to business as usual in order for the solution to be viable.

                    • McFlock

                      Two points.
                      Firstly, yes, there is the possibility new technology will save us. As I referred to. But it’s not on the horizon now. So I would probably be more in the position of Rear Adm Bradford:

                      “Unless some force is discovered to replace it, we will soon be at the end of our resources. But it is also true that unless something is discovered to take the place of coal and steam, we shall be compelled to fall back in the end upon the two great forces of nature – the sun’s rays and the wind. Both of these can be utilized to generate power, but the trouble with both is that they are variable.

                      “Power cannot, of course, be generated from the sun’s rays at night, nor on a cloudy day, and we have periods of calm, when the wind is scarcely perceptible.

                      “On the other hand, to say what the power of the future will be is pure speculation and prophecy. I am no seventh son of a seventh son, and do not care to go into the prophesying business. But fifty years before the discovery of the steam engine or the discovery of coal, who would have dared to predict the present mechanical development of civilization?

                      “Something of the same sort may occur during the next fifty years. Some ingenious man may discover a force of nature that will entirely supersede steam. But this I can say, that unless such a discovery is made, the windmills will in time throw their arms to the breeze, and the solar engines will pump our water and drive our factories.”

                       (the full article is reproduced with many others in chronological order – do a c&p search for the quote),
                      Secondly, we’re already passed peak oil. You’ll note Edison playing the “nah, it’s all good, we’ve got 50,000 years before that happens” card. He could, because the information about world resources was still almost completely unknown. Now we have a very good idea of what is where on the planet, and how much it will cost to drill. So it was more likely then that something will come out of almost thin air, like oil did just after 1900.

                      Oil also was on the doorstep of the nations that would want it – the Middle East, Romania, and Texas. This is no longer the case with anything that goes bang these days. So that leaves either a sudden way to mass-produce a petroleum analogue, or pocket “Mr Fusion” generators that work off household rubbish and can power aircraft. I suspect that we will probably get the latter eventually, but also that there will be an energy-gap period where oil is $xx00/barrel and it’s still cheaper than any of its competitors. If so, those will be interesting times.

                    • Lanthanide

                      The thing with oil (and coal) is that these were natural things sitting around in the earth with huge energy density. We also have uranium and other fissile isotopes, but to get energy out of them requires very expensive plants and they aren’t practical for private transportation uses such as cars, unless you go with batteries and at the moment there simply isn’t anything with high enough energy density and charge times to really properly replace oil for most private car usage. Current electric vehicles can cope with day to day commutes quite well but that’s about it.

                      If we’re looking at fusion to pull a rabbit out of a hat, then that’s not really something just lying around in nature that we can easily dig up and burn. It’ll require very precise engineering to get it working, and again runs into the same problem for powering private transport.

                      Methane chlarates are a potential energy source just sitting around in nature that we can burn, but it’s quite different in nature from oil in that they’re buried very deep and it’s not obvious how to safely extract them. They also won’t help too much with global warming (although CO2 is a weaker greenhouse gas than methane, so if we’re forced to choose between burning it or releasing it, it should be burnt).

                • newsense

                  hand-wringing academic

                • insider

                  The 19th and 20th Centuries are littered with concerns and claims of an impending oil drought. I’m surprised you didn’t come across them in your masters research. Was it at Waikato? Did you not read the much quoted Fanning on past predictions?

                  I’m also suprised you think Hubbert predicted a US 48 peak in 1972 or 74 when he actually predicted it as somewhere between 65 and 70. Did you find out that he was out nearly 15% in volume and that his error has magnified over time so that actual production has outstripped even his highest cumulative predictions. And when he revised his numbers in the 80s he was even more wrong and that was with another 20 years of data. Hubbert’s like a stopped watch – right twice a day.

                  There’s a great quote from a 1970s article predicting that this time the wolves really are at the door: “Oil experts, economists and government officials who have attempted in recent years to predict future demand and prices for oil have had only marginally better success than those who foretell the advent of earthquakes or the second coming of the Messiah. ” Not much has changed.

                  • Macro


                    • insider

                      Well argued that man

                    • Colonial Viper

                      You’re a fucking moron insider, US oil production peaked within 12 months of when Hubbert predicted. 1972 I believe it was.

                    • insider

                      It helps if you actually read stuff CV. Like Hubert’s original paper in 56 where he suspected 65 as the peak date and 70 as an outside date (though his tone IMO is sceptical). It peaked in 70/71 at about 34bbpy, higher than his estimate of 30. The paper is easily available if you were bothered? But maybe you should check with Peter, he has a masters don’t you know and he says it was 73.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Hubbert picked it. Year or two up or down, so? Conceptually and practically the man was right.

                  • McFlock

                    Although we know a lot more about the earth’s resources now than we did in the 1970s, 1950s, or 1850s.

                    • insider

                      Yes but some seem to think we know a heck of a lot more than we actually do, which is why the repeated predictions of impending end times (and subsequent revisions following the inevitable ‘Great Disappointments’) of Campbell, lahaerre et al become embarrassing in their Millerite regularity

                    • Macro

                      World oil production growth trends were flat from 2005 to 2008. According to a January 2007 International Energy Agency report, global supply (which includes biofuels, non-crude sources of petroleum, and use of strategic oil reserves, in addition to crude production) averaged 85.24 million barrels per day (13.552×10^6 m3/d) in 2006, up 0.76 million barrels per day (121×10^3 m3/d) (0.9%), from 2005.[90] Average yearly gains in global supply from 1987 to 2005 were 1.2 million barrels per day (190×10^3 m3/d) (1.7%).[90] In 2008, the IEA drastically increased its prediction of production decline from 3.7% a year to 6.7% a year, based largely on better accounting methods, including actual research of individual oil field production throughout the world.[91]
                      You can get more info, if you want to look for it, but frankly I can’t be bothered discussing the subject with people who talk out of their backside.
                      the simple fact is that despite increasing the price – supply has NOT increased. ERGO “peak oil”

                    • insider

                      It’s now 2012. What the latest data? Well what do you know it’s 89.5mbpd. But, but, you said that couldn’t happen…must have been talking out of your arse.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Give us a link to your 89.5M bb/d then.

                      Coz its rubbish.

                    • insider

                      S’not, so there! OPEC monthly review for jan 12

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Iraq and Libya increasing their production will put a temporary bump in total crude production figures. For about 2 years, probably less.

                  • mik e

                    insider your full of it they didn’t have reliable statistics let alone cars and computers to number crunch.
                    Just the numbers of cars China and India are putting on the road with subsidized fuel is enough to put an end to your little flight of fancy then the numbers of planes in the sky is expected to triple by 2025 the orders for these planes have already been made.

            • queenstfarmer

              I don’t know, but I’d say it is the current demand level. So yes obviously if demand increases, and supply keeps up, and new reserves are not exploited, then 46.2 years will go down.

              • Colonial Viper

                Even at 46 years (and I think 30 years or so is likely) that’s only 2 human generations.

  6. james 111 6

    I believe this great drill it get the money for it give the people jobs. Fantastic news now watch all the activists prevent it from happening

    • McFlock 6.1

      Yup. Let’s nuke a $20B tourist industry by spilling oil all over our coastline. That’ll create jobs /sarc

      • insider 6.1.1

        Or better still let’s completely overexaggerate the impacts. So how’s tourism doing in Alaska these days? What about Britanny or Spain? How’s Florida doing?

      • mik e 6.1.2

        Lets fuck the farming sector by finding heaps of oil which will push our dollar so high that farmers walk of their land and start shooting themselves like when Roger Douglas Cut all subsidies that no other country has yet.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      And what do we do once all the resources are gone? At that point we wouldn’t even have a lot of money as we’d have to borrow more and more and more to cover the loss caused by paying offshore companies to take our resources and make themselves richer.

    • Blighty 6.3

      it’s like he can’t read.

      • McFlock 6.3.1

        or doesn’t want to.

      • felix 6.3.2

        james111 just the 2012 name of the same boring troll who’s been playing the same boring games here for years under various names.

        He’s not interested in a genuine discussion. He’s best ridiculed and ignored, engaging with him will get you nowhere as has been proven time and time again.

    • felix 6.4

      James: “I believe this great drill it get the money for it give the people jobs. “

      You have no idea how this works. We don’t “get the money for it”. That’s not even part of the plan.

      Why are you making so many comments on a subject you clearly know nothing about?

  7. Gosman 7

    Labour was the political party that was founded by workers in the extractive industries in NZ. Now it seems it wants to distance itself from that sort of stuff. Much nicer to be the party of the effette intellectuals and Cafe workers in the big cities.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Well lets nationalise said extractive industries, and if we wish to use them, keep the lions share of the benefits for ourselves.

      • insider 7.1.1

        We also have to fund all the investment needed to do said extraction and carry all the risk. Where will all the cash come from? No profit is guaranteed.

        • Colonial Viper


          If there’s 3B bb of light sweet crude down there, raising funds is going to be a piece of cake.

          The NZ Govt can simply require a 50% stake in any oil field and drilling venture off our shores. And as a sovereign nation we can get credit to develop our share of the venture far more cheaply than a private company. NZ citizens would loan the government hundreds of millions through sovereign oil bonds, for instance.

          • insider

            There’s what where? Sounds like you’ve got oil fever. There is nothing down there but risk. that’s why the world’s largest oil company walked away.

    • james 111 7.2

      Totally agree with you very good point ,and that is where they have gone so badly wrong being run by Theocrats & Technocrats where a good dose of pragmatism is required. That is why they are losing their voter base not because they have become right wing as Draco says. But because their message doesnt connect with the average Kiwi worker anymore

      • McFlock 7.2.1

        What a moron.

      • mik e 7.2.2

        JTURD theocratic like dinosaur Don Brash
        Don Nicolson
        Extinct like the human race will be if we don’t stop killing our finite ecosystem.
        We could start by flushing gos and jturd down a composting toilet.

    • mik e 7.3

      goose for brains we’ve moved on to new pastures National still stuck in the dark ages down an $300 million exploding coal mine.Horizon is also a cigarette brand that promises you a “brighter future”
      Horizon Deep water drilling in the US under conservative administration.

  8. Eduardo Kawak 8

    Think Big?

  9. John D 9

    I thought this was supposed to be onshore oil that was “literally leaking out of the ground” and that the oil company were acquiring land for this purpose. Where is the mention of offshore drilling?

  10. Macro 10

    “Texas of the South Seas”
    does that mean we get to have massive oil spills as well?

    • John D 10.1

      “The East Coast Basin, where TAG holds a significant portion of the prospective onshore area, exhibits dramatic oil and gas seeps, and exploration data reveals numerous high-impact, multi-zone conventional targets at depths between 250 to 2000 meters. The East Coast Basin’s oil-rich tight source-rock formations are a widespread exploration target with major unconventional oil and gas potential. ”


      OK, so here is the TAG website telling us that there are onshore prospects. They also have offshore prospects but the recent press release was about this. If there is oil at 250 m then you could just about drill it yourself.

      Onshore oil development doesn’t have to be big and ugly. Put in a nodding donkey and surround it with trees etc (in fact your picture on this article is of a nodding donkey)

      • John D 10.1.1

        There’s a reasonable assessment from GNS exploration geophysicist Chris Uruski here:


        The onshore prospects are shale oil and geologically dispersed. So there is oil literally “leaking out of the ground”, but there are not the huge reservoirs that you get in onshore Texas.

        If any big finds occur, then as Uruski points out, directional drilling would reduce the number of wellheads so we wouldn’t end up with Taranaki looking like Texas, covered in wells.

        I suspect TAG were after a bit of investment and bigged up the story a bit.

        • Macro

          I have it on good authority from an expert in the oil exploration business in Perth (who has spent years in the business and knows what he is talking about), that they are wasting their time and money, and you will too if you have anything to do with it.

          • John D

            I was just trying to supply some factual information that appeared to be missing from the post.

            If people want to invest in onshore oil in NZ, then that’s their lookout. They need to do due diligence just like any other investment. It certainly won’t be me – I don’t have any money to invest.

            If it’s a geologically dispersed prospect then there will be quite a bit of labour required to do the exploration. Nice work for some geophysicists tramping over the Taranaki. There’s worse ways to make a living.

      • insider 10.1.2

        Seeps are just a sign of a hydrocarbon system not necessarily of a viable resource. Chris Uruski from GNS made some good comments in HB Today recently on that subject.

    • mik e 10.2

      No we get idiot leaders like the bushes

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