Story: Oil and gas

Alpha well, Moturoa (1st of 2)

Alpha well, Moturoa

This tripod at the Moturoa oilfield, photographed in 1865, is located on the New Plymouth foreshore. Offshore in the distance are the Sugar Loaf Islands (Ngā Motu). The Alpha well was manually dug to a depth of 4.6 metres before the workmen were overcome by the smell of gas. The sign on the tripod reads ‘To London or bust’. This tripod was replaced with an oil-drilling derrick, and a bore went down 168 metres. None of the early drilling ventures at Moturoa in the 1860s showed anything more than traces of oil and gas – it was to be nearly 30 years before oil-producing wells appeared in the area.

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How to cite this page:

Roger Gregg and Carl Walrond, 'Oil and gas - Early petroleum exploration, 1865–1960', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 11 December 2023)

Story by Roger Gregg and Carl Walrond, published 12 Jun 2006