Exploration Geophysics Exploration Geophysics Society
Journal of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists

Deepwater Taranaki, New Zealand: structural development and petroleum potential*

Christopher lan Uruski
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

GNS Science, PO Box 30 369, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Email: c.uruski@gns.cri.nz

Exploration Geophysics 39(2) 94-107 https://doi.org/10.1071/EG08013
Submitted: 7 November 2007  Accepted: 29 April 2008   Published: 16 June 2008


Deepwater Taranaki is investigated for its petroleum potential, using all available seismic data tied to shallow-water wells. It contains up to 10 km of sediment. An early rift sequence is overlain by a large Late Cretaceous delta, which culminates with the mid-Campanian Rakopi Formation coal measures. This sequence marks the break-up unconformity following the start of Tasman Sea spreading. A passive margin succession follows as the New Zealand mini-continent gradually subsided, with sediments becoming gradually finer grained until carbonates dominate during the Oligocene. Initiation of the present plate boundary around the start of the Miocene, 25 million years ago, caused uplift and renewed clastic deposition in the form of spectacular channel and turbidite complexes.

The present reconnaissance seismic grid indicates at least six subtle structures that are each large enough to contain a billion barrels of oil or several trillion cubic feet of gas, suggesting that the first drilling targets may be Late Cretaceous fluvial and marine sands draped across gentle basement structures. Cretaceous structures are commonly overlain by Miocene channel and turbidite sands that are also draped across underlying highs. The similar, but much smaller structures of Tui, Amokura, and Pateke, on the Taranaki shelf, are currently being produced by AWE. Future discoveries are likely closer to the shelf edge and ultimately the larger prizes will be sought in deeper water.

Key words: Deepwater Taranaki, petroleum potential, Cretaceous delta, Miocene turbidites, large traps.


This paper draws heavily on work by numerous scientists at GNS Science. It was completed under contract to Global Resource Holdings, LLLP of Denver, Colorado, the operator of PEP 38451.


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* *Presented at the 19th ASEG Geophysical Conference & Exhibition, November 2007.

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