Broadening the Gas Vision

THE Australian Pipelines and Gas Association’s new CEO wants to engage end users more to build a unified voice and bring them into the Gas Vision 2050, from which they were strangely absent, just as the Turnbull government reportedly scrapped the Clean Energy Target.

Broadening the Gas Vision APGA CEO Steve Davies.

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The Gas Vision 2050 was a massive undertaking launched earlier this year to turn Australia's gas resources into products and services that enhance national prosperity and achieve carbon neutrality.
 
Led by Energy Networks Australia, it included the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, APGA, Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association of Australia and Gas Energy Australia.
 
GEA is the national peak body representing the bulk of the downstream compressed natural gas, LNG and LPG industries; while the GAMAA represents both natural gas and LPG appliance manufacturers.
 
Yet the Australian Industry Group which looks out for manufacturers among others; Energy Users Association of Australia, which also seeks reliable and sustainable energy for all energy users; and Chemistry Australia, the national body for the country's chemicals and plastics industries, were not involved.
 
Gas Vision 2050 is broad-sweeping, but seeking to leverage what the involved groups see as key "transformational" technologies: biogas production, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen.
 
Aside from the monetary value APPEA's members would see from commercialising natural gas developments, the debate around renewables versus coal - particularly in light of AGL Energy's discussions with the Turnbull government announced this week - appears to have relegated natural gas to an afterthought. 
 
AGL is tossing up extending the life of the Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW for five years or selling it.
 
The Commonwealth wants to put greater emphasis on coal-fired baseload power as a substantial minority within the Coalition fears a CET could weaken supply security as it would favour renewables over gas and coal-fired generators.
 
Yet as APGA's new CEO Steve Davies told Energy News yesterday, the sin of omission of ostracising gas is based on the simplistic focus on electricity generation, when natural gas is about far more than that.
 
Now he wants to engage those end user groups more intimately and bring them into the Gas Vision 2050 so those new gas-related technologies can be commercialised, used and even exported.
 
"I see this message as one where all of the gas industry - be it producers, pipelines, retailers, the major users - we all have that common interest that gas plays a really important role and we want it to continue," Davies said.
 

Differing agendas

 
AiG has been vocal in backing APGA and APPEA's calls for more gas generation and for Victoria and New South Wales to lift their onshore unconventional drilling bans, and has even supported AGL's plans for LNG imports to help solve the problem.
 
AiG also echoed Davies' comments yesterday that natural gas was more than about electricity generation, but differed from the upstream and midstream sectors in a recent letter to both the federal Coalition and opposition when outlining a number of suggested actions to address the energy crisis.
 
AiG CEO Innes Willox said there may be significant potential to reduce domestic gas demand without losing associated economic activity. 
 
"While some industrial gas demand is for chemical feedstock, and not easily substitutable, much is for heat or power," he said. 
 
"There are industrial energy efficiency or fuel switching opportunities to reduce this. Residential and commercial gas use is even more likely to be reducible without loss of amenity, though upgrading major household appliances is not done often or lightly."
 
He also affirmed that gas-fired electricity generation was "critical" in the near term for the stability of the grid, but in the medium and longer term other sources of energy and flexibility are viable and likely cheaper. 
 
While gas efficiency measures will also make energy users less vulnerable to movements in gas prices, and should be developed or strengthened as a priority, Willox said that even with established technologies savings will take time to scale up and are unlikely to resolve the most immediate market tightness.
 
Yet Davies wants to coalesce these arguments into a focused one around where the upstream and midstream sectors have common ground.
 
"All those areas that exist where we disagree on policy that comes through, I'd like to shift the focus on the areas that we agree on, and I would like to engage all the gas stakeholders, working with APPEA and ENA with the Gas Vision 20150 we produced earlier in the year, building on that work," Davies said.
 
He also wants to focus on "bringing in the users into that gas vision, and all of us working together to explain the role of gas".
 
While he doesn't know Willox that well, the AiG CEO is on Davies list of people to contact, having dealt more with AiG's principal policy advisor Tennant Reed in the past, particularly in his previous role as APGA's national policy man. 
 
"What we're seeing a lot of in the political discussion on energy in general is that energy companies in whichever part of the supply chain they are aren't thinking about the customer as much as they should be," Davies said.
 
"This is about our sector reaching out to our customers and establishing common ground and common goals and working together for goals."

 

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