Multinational oil company Shell has bought a 50% share in a multi-million dollar venture to explore part of the Great Southern Basin, off Southland's east coast, for oil and gas.
Shell is partnering with the New Zealand subsidiary of the Austrian exploration and production company OMV, which will start 3D seismic surveying in December, about 100 kilometres off the Catlins coast.
The survey of an area of about 3,000 sq. kms will be carried out by a state of the art vessel designed to handle harsh Antarctic conditions.
OMV has already spent $50 million undertaking 2-dimensional surveying of the area, but this time will go deeper - between 800 and 1200 metres - to get more reliable information on how much oil and gas is there.
OMV New Zealand managing director Peter Zeilinger says there is no guarantee oil will be found, but if there is a discovery, drilling would still be several years away.