Policy focus needed if Australia is to meet petroleum potential

AUSTRALIA has the opportunity to become the next Qatar and be a big long-term winner in the LNG supply business, according to Ben Hollins from Wood Mackenzie.
Policy focus needed if Australia is to meet petroleum potential Policy focus needed if Australia is to meet petroleum potential Policy focus needed if Australia is to meet petroleum potential Policy focus needed if Australia is to meet petroleum potential Policy focus needed if Australia is to meet petroleum potential

Australia now has more than $100 billion worth of petroleum projects under development or in planning stages, the APPEA 2008 Conference and Exhibition was told in Perth today.

Woodside Energy's Jim Willets told the conference the current pipeline of committed and potential projects now included 25 significant developments.

"Together these have the potential to increase Australian oil and gas production significantly in the next 5-10 years, mainly through growing gas production," Willets said.

But he warned that sharply escalating costs and skills shortages in all parts of the industry posed a threat to the delivery of projects.

Various speakers agreed that global LNG demand was set to skyrocket and Australia's gas reserves and stable economic and political regimes could see it become one of the world's leading LNG players - providing it could overcome some signifciant hurdles.

LNG will meet about one-third of Asia's natural gas requirements by 2030, with demand boosted by increased use among electricity generators, said ExxonMobil vice president for established area projects Alan Hirshberg. This means that worldwide LNG demand would more than treble by that date.

Another speaker, Wood Mackenzie European Gas and Power Consulting head Ben Hollins also gave a warning, saying red tape could frustrate the development of Australia's resources.

Hollins told the morning session at the APPEA conference today that Australia's substantial gas resource base, significant on-going exploration established track record of LNG exports since 1989 boded well for the future.

"Australia should be a big long-term winner in the LNG supply business particularly given the challenges faced by some of it's competitors," Hollins said.

"But LNG developments in Australia also face major challenges and progress on new developments appears to be slowing."

According to Hollins, access to resources, permitting and approvals, reserves uncertainty and domestic market obligations are holding back LNG developments in Australia.

Other problems included differing stakeholder priorities and positioning, as well as additional exploration and appraisal work that may impact project development schedules.

But other potential exporting countries also faced challenges in developing LNG projects.

This was reflected in the lack of final investment decisions made worldwide during 2007 with decisions made on only 10 million tonnes per annum of new capacity - at Pluto and Angola.

Hollins said there was also considerable doubt about the 80-95MMtpa of new capacity that could take FID in 2008.

"Australia isn't immune to these challenges…but the bottom line is that Australia has the reserves, and the environment conducive to international oil company investment," he said.

"The clear message for Australia, from a global perspective, is whether Australia realises its export potential, and become the next Qatar."

APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson said the size of the mooted investments meant a lot was at stake and Australia needed to ensure its policy settings could bring all of these projects to fruition.

"The investment being considered is almost eight times the original investment in Australia's biggest-ever resource project, The North West Shelf gas project," she said.

"It is exciting to consider the potential of Australia's resources, but it all becomes academic unless as a nation we are committed to ensuring the petroleum industry reaches its potential to enhance Australia's prosperity."

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