Port Taranaki is going through a transformation – one that offers significant opportunities for this region and the nation.
Eight years ago the outlook for the country’s energy industry was uncertain, with projected future shortages of natural gas and declining production of crude oil and condensate, the light oil often associated with natural gas.
In 2004 Methanex New Zealand, the country’s largest single gas user and the port’s biggest user by volume and revenue, was mothballing its twin train Motunui methanol complex north of New Plymouth because of insufficient gas and operating the smaller nearby Waitara Valley plant only as a swing producer. But Port Taranaki chief executive Roy Weaver says a much more encouraging picture is now emerging.
In recent years, oil production has again begun to increase, with the coming onstream of Pohokura, Kupe and the offshore Taranaki Tui oil field during mid-2007, and the larger Maari-Mania field further south in early 2009.
There is increasing activity in the onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration and production sector, plus more petroleum and petrochemical products are being produced, largely for export through this port.
Methanex are anticipating to be back to near full production capacity at Motunui in the second half of 2012 and there is now more liquefied petroleum gas extracted from an increasing number of fields around the region. This means the resumption of LPG exports, largely to the east coast of Australia and the South Pacific island nations, after years of imports from Australia.
“It is so pleasing to see the gas supply situation turn around to the extent that Methanex is able to restart a second train at Motunui. The new 10-year gas supply agreement between Methanex and Todd Energy underpins the methanol manufacturer’s longterm operations and presence in New Zealand,” says Roy.
Having both trains operating may see methanol production almost double – from about 850,000 tonnes per annum to about 1.5 million tonnes. Over 10 years, 15 million tonnes of methanol is anticipated to have a market value of over $USD6billion.
“This is also very heartening for the future of onshore oil and gas exploration and development,” Roy adds.
As well as the greater volumes of methanol and LPG being pumped through the port, there are two other areas providing very solid growth opportunities for Port Taranaki.
There are a greater number of supply vessels operating out of the port, providing increasing support for all sorts of offshore oil and gas exploration and development. These, and others, will also be involved in the major, multibasin exploration campaigns scheduled for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 summers, and beyond.
Important economic opportunities exist in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the fifth largest in the world.
Port Taranaki is gearing up to support these increased oil and gas exploration efforts and the hoped-for discoveries and developments – as well as supporting further minerals, exploration and development off the west coast of the North Island.
The strong growth of the bulk and dry goods sectors that have seen volumes in such goods as fertilisers, animal feeds and log exports increase more than fourfold over the past five years bodes well for a diversified and strong port.
This dry bulk growth is set to increase further with export shipments of metallurgical quality coking coal by Bathurst Resources from Westport to Asia via Port Taranaki.
Hamish Bohannan, Bathurst Resources managing director, describes the coal as “not a fuel but an industrial commodity” because of its very high fixed carbon content.
The first export shipment to Asia, which is expected soon, will be a milestone for Bathurst and Port Taranaki. Many more are expected to follow as Bathurst Resources ramps up its coal production from the Denniston Plateau to one million tonnes, then two million tonnes per annum for the next 35 years.
“These are opportunities available for the port to grasp, utilising its natural advantages such as its deep harbour draught and the ready availability of more storage areas for a greater range of different cargoes. The future of this port is looking bright.”