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New Zealand courts oil and gas explorers

After boasting of renewables, New Zealand opens oil and gas auction.

By Daniel J. Graeber

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, March 30 (UPI) -- Less than a week after boasting of the renewable energy footprint, the New Zealand government announced the start of an oil and gas drilling auction.

"Oil is our fourth-largest export, and brings in around $700 million each year in royalties and taxes," New Zealand Energy Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement Monday. "This money is invested back into our communities in key infrastructure projects like roads, schools and hospitals."

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His comments came as the government launched its annual auction for permits to explore for oil and natural gas. The third annual auction includes three reserve areas with a combined acreage of 165,752 square miles, with most of that offshore.

The government said there are around 149 million barrels of oil reserves remaining in fields already in production. Gas production was around 450 million cubic feet per day in 2011, the last full year for which the government has data.

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The minister said permits awarded last year translated to about $84 million, with a potential for another $760 million in further activity.

"It is clear that companies are seeking frontier acreage and long-term opportunities like those which New Zealand has to offer, and this government remains committed to attracting major international companies to invest in exploration and development in this country," Bridges said.

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The oil and gas auction follows last week's announcement that electricity generated from renewable resources last year was 79.9 percent, a 5 percent increase from the previous year and a record for the country.

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The government aims to have 90 percent of its electricity supplied through renewable resources by 2025.

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