Oil and Gas – Kapuni Taranaki NZ.
Natural gas from the Kapuni gas field, which was discovered in 1959.
Having lived in Taranaki over 70 years, oil and gas have been part of my life, now in the year 2017 gas and farming has made this part of New Zealand very progressive.
I remember so clearly when they discovered the gas field at Kapuni, under the shadows of Mount Egmont/Taranaki in 1959, there was such a buzz, newspapers were screaming the news, there was talk about it everywhere, such exciting news, all though it was anticipation about oil being found, it was a surprise for everyone, there were some great celebrations about that event.
The cap rock was drilled through and a massive expansion of gas at the bottom of the well caused a blow-out, throwing mud high into the air, the pressure was higher than anticipated.
Back in the 1950’s there wasn’t much known knew pressure control in wells.
Help had to be brought in, once the blow-out preventer was shut, mud was changed so it equalized the downward pressure in the hole and things settled.
New Zealand’s first major hydrocarbon was born.
Taranaki was on its way to becoming the petrochemical heart of the nation.
Production began at Kapuni in 1969, 10 years after the first discovery of gas, with four wells and the main production plant.
A year later the pipeline was opened, that pipeline went through our farm at Midhirst, this is one of the reasons I know about it as a lot of papers needed to be signed to get farmers consent.
Within two Months 51,000 Customers had signed up to natural gas. Many of these were domestic users.
Increasing demand soon resulted in the need for Kapuni to expand and that was known as the Kapuni Acceleration Program.
It has been over 50 years since the discovery of the Kapuni oil and gas field, in 2012 there was more focus put on new drilling at kapuni for “tight” gas, this field when founded it was said to have a life of 25 years.
By the 1980’s, ten more wells had been drilled at Kapuni allowing the producers flexibility.
George Cawsey then a drilling Superintendent, drilled the 5760 meters Kapuni 13 well in 1983 at that time it was the Deepest well in the Southern Hemisphere.
Gas Recycling was introduced at Kapuni. The process involved taking the gas out of the ground, extracting the condensate (light oil) and pumping it back into the ground.
Once underground the gas would go back into the formations and travel through the rock, picking up further condensate on its way. This could again be extracted off.
In 1982 Natural Gas Corporation’s sister company Petrochem, set up a plant next door at Kapuni to use the natural gas and catalysts to fix nitrogen in the air to make ammonium gas.
The Gas was then converted into Granular Urea for use as a fertilizer.
Kapuni has seen a lot of first’s in New Zealand.
It was found in the first modern oil exploration programs.
First gas field to be commercially developed.
Also first major direct government involvement in the petrochemical industry.
It was the birth of the nation’s petrochemical industry and herald.
Kapuni put Taranaki position as the petrochemical heart Of New Zealand.
So the petroleum industry was born, in New Zealand producing crude oil, condensate (light oil), natural gas and various liquefied natural gases (LPG)
This industry produces methanol, synthetic petrol, ammonia, urea, and various formaldehyde resins, much of diverse range of commodities are exported.
However a significant proportion does remain in New Zealand and some crude oil and condensate are shipped to the Marsden Point Refinery (the only oil refinery in New Zealand) for processing into petrol and other petroleum products and nearly all our natural gas is used in this country as the main feedstock for petrochemicals, in generating electricity, or as alternative fuels in industry, homes and motor vehicles.
All of New Zealand’s known economically recoverable oil and gas reserves are located in the Taranaki Basin – either offshore or onshore – and all hydrocarbons produced are piped, stored and transported within or from Taranaki, the heart of this industry.
This wasn’t the first oil find in New Zealand, there had been other earlier oil finds, in 1905 the Moturoa Petroleum Company birthday well, blew out impressive amounts of oil and gas, the fever hit New Plymouth, but the flow was not sustained and the company went into liquidation.
I’m writing this, as someone that was living, surrounded by all the excitement of an era forty to fifty years ago in the oil and gas industry in New Zealand.