Oil and gas operations

Activities to explore for or produce oil and gas in the EEZ usually involve a number of steps.

Oil and gas operations take a lot of planning to understand the environment, map the geological formation, determine the size of the reservoir, and develop a way to extract the hydrocarbons.

Here you'll find information about some of the activities involved in oil and gas operations that may be permitted or require a marine consent.

Find out how the law protects our ocean environment during oil and gas exploration and drilling - factsheet (pdf, 177KB)

Pre-drilling activities Plus

Seabed sampling

Initial exploration activity could involve seabed sampling which is a permitted activity. The activity should be notified to the EPA using forms available on our website – the first one is required at least 40 working days before activity begins. Further notification to affected iwi may be required as well as a description of your activity and contingency plan should a sensitive environment be encountered. We will put your initial notification form on our website prior to your activity commencing. Once underway, keep the EPA informed, and then send us a summary of your activity once it is complete.

For more information see the section on marine scientific research, prospecting and exploration

Seismic surveys

Seismic surveys are undertaken to obtain subsurface information about the geology. This is a permitted activity in the EEZ or waters of the Continental Shelf provided that you follow Department of Conservation (DOC)'s 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations (the Code). DOC should be contacted if you are planning a seismic survey. You need to follow the procedures for pre-activity notification as described for seabed sampling. We monitor compliance with requirements in the Code of Conduct.

For more information see the section on marine seismic surveys

Marine consents for exploration and production activities Plus


Non-notified consent is required for exploration and appraisal drilling. Development drilling follows a notified consent process which has a longer time frame.

Drilling is regulated by a number of different agencies. However environmental effects such as the disturbance of the seabed, or removal of non-living material, are restricted by the EEZ Act.

No matter what type of drilling is planned, an application should address:

  • the environment you plan to operate in
  • the likely environmental effects of your operation on the environment and existing interests
  • any avoidance, remediation, or mitigation measures you intend to take

It should also include an impact assessment as specified under s 39 of the EEZ Act.

Apply for a marine consent

Discharges from installations

Any discharge of harmful substances during exploration or production activity must either comply with the Discharge and Dumping Regulations 2015 or may be controlled through conditions in a marine consent. The applicable consent decision-making process depends on the discharge activity, with some needing a fully-notified consent.

Discretionary discharges of harmful substances considered during a consent application may include:

  • Offshore processing drainage
  • Production water
  • Displacement water.

All offshore installations require an emergency spill response plan (ESRP) for spills of harmful substances. The ESRP excludes oil, which is covered under Maritime New Zealand's requirement that operators have an oil spill contingency plan (OSCP). ESRPs must be approved by the EPA.

Emergency Spill Response Plan application form (docx 365KB)

We monitor compliance with the general conditions imposed through marine consents.

To undertake a permitted discharge, you must comply with the conditions set out in the Regulations. The following discharges are permitted:

  • Oily water discharged from machinery space on an offshore installation
  • Harmful substances discharged down a petroleum well generated during, or used for, the operation of an offshore installation
  • Seawater contaminated with oil from operational purposes, such as produced oil tank cleaning water.

You can find more information on this under the Process for marine consents section and under the Discharges of harmful substances sections.


Monitoring and compliance Plus

The EPA monitors compliance with regulations and conditions imposed through marine consents. Under the Discharge and Dumping Regulations, operators of an offshore installation are required to:

  • Provide the EPA with a copy of the oil record book within 15 working days after the end of the month in which it was completed
  • Ensure a garbage record book is readily available for inspection by the EPA at all reasonable times.