Exploration sector

Hydrocarbons, although requiring increasingly responsible use, are still an essential part of our modern economy. NIWA has provided survey and consultancy services related to the exploration of offshore mineral resources for thirty years.

Our position as a provider of marine geological and ecosystems research puts us in a unique position to assess resources and potential environmental impacts as an integrated service. We have helped many clients with their geological, geophysical and geotechnical marine survey and environmental requirements.

Along with our exceptional scientific expertise, we also own and operate a fleet of ocean-going and inshore vessels, capable of world-class environmental monitoring, research and survey work. This includes New Zealand's only deepwater, ice-strengthened research and survey vessel, RV Tangaroa, a fully compliant SOLAS and DP2 vessel which can provide diving, ROV, AUV and other offshore marine support services. 

More information about RV Tangaroa

NIWA has been involved in many commercial surveys for the oil and gas industry (drill sites, pipeline route surveys etc.), submarine cable routes, marine engineering application and for coastal/deep-sea mineral exploration work, including environmental impact assessments.

Our vessels are multi-purpose and can be equipped for a wide range of work, including:

  • marine environmental studies, as required for environmental evaluations, impact assessment and monitoring purposes
  • geological evaluations, deploying seabed coring, dredging and grab sampling facilities
  • geophysical surveys for marine mining, pipeline and cable route studies, using side-scan sonars, sub-bottom profilers, magnetometers etc.
  • 2D, or pseudo-3D seismic, surveys for: geological seabed studies and the identification of sub-bottom features and evaluating shallow gas hazards for subsea drilling operations;
  • deployment of AUVs, ROVs and other sub-sea equipment
  • geotechnical surveys, such as those required for pre-well drilling site investigations using CPTs or seabed sampling equipment
  • seabed mapping and swath bathymetry of coastal environments, using multi-beam swath mapping systems to help identify areas of geological and ecological interest.

More information about multi-beam swath mapping



Manager - Marine Resources
RV Tangaroa. Find out more about NIWA Vessels. (Photo Dave Allen, NIWA)
Survey coverage of part of the Otago canyon complex offshore East Coast, South Island extending from Waitaki Canyon in the north to Hoopers Canyon in the south. Image is a sun-illuminated digital elevation model. Depth range 100m (red) to 2000m (purple). NIWA
Deploying the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 'Sentry' from the RV Tangaroa. Credit: Kareen Schnabel/NIWA