Austrian oil major OMV is starting to make a name for themselves in New Zealand for all the wrong reasons. The oil company is not as well known as some of the others, and is the last big player left in New Zealand following the Labour-led Coalition Government’s ban on new permits for oil and gas exploration.
OMV (formerly abbreviation for Österreichische Mineralölverwaltung – English: Austrian Mineral Oil Administration) is an Austrian integrated oil and gas company which is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. OMV is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. It is active in the upstream and downstream businesses.
OMV operates in many places around the world, including in New Zealand. But OMV recently commissioned an oil rig to drill exploratory wells offshore from taranaki, and in NZ’s wild and remote Great South Basin. This has galvanised opposition from the environmental movement due to the extreme risks associated with an oil spill, and the simple fact that in the climate emergency, when we can’t afford to burn even known reserves of oil, seeking more is completely ludicrous and irresponsible.
OMV has since dropped its plans for oil exploration in New Zealand.
Austrian oil company OMV is one of just 100 companies responsible for over 70% of the world’s climate pollution since 1988. This makes them one of the worst polluters in the world.
OMV are also one of just a handful of companies that are, controversially, drilling for oil in the Arctic. They currently hold licenses near the Bear Island nature reserve, which is home to polar bears, ringed seals, harp seals, harbour seals, hooded seals, walruses, white-beaked dolphins and common minke whales.
With the recent exit of Shell, Chevron and Equinor (formerly Statoil), OMV has become the biggest oil and gas player in New Zealand.
This has made OMV the focus of the movement against oil and gas exploration led by Greenpeace in New Zealand.
OMV currently operates the Maari oil field, making it the country’s largest oil producer.
On 20 February 2015, OMV spilled up to 300 litres of oil at the Maari oilfield. The oil spill, which took place near a blue whale breeding ground and the habitat of the critically endangered Māui dolphin, was not cleaned up and spread over 10km. This followed two oil spills at the same field in 2010, which resulted in oil washing up on the Kapiti Coast.
Now OMV wants to search for new oil and gas fields to exploit in the seas off the coast of Aotearoa New Zealand. OMV holds seven offshore exploration permits in the Taranaki Basin, Pegasus Basin (Wairarapa) and Great South Basin (Otago).
OMV’s rig has already arrived in New Zealand and will start exploratory drilling in Taranaki at the end of 2019. They intend to use the same rig to drill in the Great South Basin this summer.
A drill rig commissioned by oil giant OMV arrived in New Zealand on June 13th 2019, a little over a year after the Government issued a ban on new oil and gas exploration permits.
At the time, Greenpeace climate campaigner Amanda Larsson, said the arrival of the OMV-contracted drill rig contradicts Jacinda Ardern’s declaration that climate change is her generation’s nuclear free moment.
“This OMV rig is a 34,000 tonne embarrassment. It’s come from Norway – literally the other side of the world – to search for new oil and gas during a climate emergency. I imagine the phrase on many people’s lips right now is probably WTF,” she says.
New Zealand received global praise last year when it became one of the first countries to ban new oil and gas exploration permits in response to the growing threat of the climate crisis.
However, permits awarded before the ban were excluded and companies could still search for new oil and gas for decades.
OMV holds the majority of these permits and plans to drill 12 new wells off the coast of Taranaki, and a further 10 wells in the Great South Basin in the summer of 2019/2020.
Greenpeace released the first footage of the rugby field sized rig as it arrived, self-propelled, into New Zealand waters.
Larsson says OMV can expect widespread resistance.
“We’re living through a climate emergency, and people around the world are standing up to the governments and companies that haven’t done enough to respond to this threat,” she says.
“We’re seeing millions of students around the world going on strike from school for the climate, and people everywhere taking part in peaceful protests.
“New Zealand has been one of the countries at the forefront of this escalating climate movement. I think it’s safe to say we can expect more of the same here if fossil fuel companies like OMV insist on searching for more oil and gas that we can’t burn.”
Greenpeace NZ Submission to the EPA on OMV GSB Ltd ‘deck drainage application application’ for a marine discharge consent to discharge harmful substances from deck drains associated with exploration and appraisal drilling in PEP50119 within the Great South Basin. You can read the Greenpeace submission here.
The Great South Basin is home to southern right whales, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins and rare New Zealand sea lions. An oil spill in their habitat would be devastating. OMV plans to drill at depths at least as great as those of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
In 2018, New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to ban new oil and gas exploration permits. But there was a catch. The ban never revoked exploration permits that were awarded before the ban. This means OMV are still legally allowed to search for new oil and gas here in untouched areas of the ocean. OMV holds the majority of permits, and if they find oil or gas, they could be extracting and burning it for decades to come.
We’re in a climate emergency. If we’re to have a chance at a liveable future, oil companies like OMV must either shift their business towards clean energy or cease to exist altogether. OMV should surrender all of their oil and gas exploration permits in Aotearoa New Zealand. They should also wind down their existing oil and gas operations and provide a just transition for their workers.
In 2017, Greenpeace Austria produced a sustainable energy vision for OMV [German language only]. The alternative business areas explored include geothermal energy, the expansion of existing OMV filling stations for electric cars, increased production of hydrogen and the development of climate-friendly fuels for aviation.
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