EVENT VIDEO (9/4/2013): Until recently, very large resources developments in the United States, Australia, Europe and other advanced nations went hand in hand, often led by the same geologists, bankers, environmental protection people and other skilled professionals.
Now Australia is out on a limb. This is partly due to cost factors, but more because of strong differences in the approach to energy developers by governments in the United States, Canada, much of the Middle East and the BRIC nations compared with those in Australia and some parts of Europe.
Citigroup’s global head of energy research, Edward Morse, in a new report, projects a dramatic reshaping of the global energy industry, where the U.S, soon becomes an exporter of energy, rather than one of the biggest importers.
The shale gas revolution has produced this change. Proposals for, and the actual construction of, liquefied natural gas export terminals in America have replaced plans for liquefied natural gas import terminals. The US will shortly become a gas exporter, competing with Australia. China is also on the move with unconventional gas resources, as are many other countries.
Australia was also headed in the same direction. Just one year ago, investors were being told by government officials we could become the world’s second largest gas exporter, after Qatar, as global energy companies moved in to develop pipelines and LNG terminals.
Now, investors are back-tracking, scared off by both red and green tape, a halt to further coal seam gas developments in some states, including NSW, and slow and bureaucratic procedures. One much voiced fear by the environmental lobby, hotly disputed by the industry, is that coal seam gas processes could damage water supplies. An ABC Four Corners program last Monday raised environmental fears about the gas industry, but was dismissed as ‘misleading’ by industry leaders. The Australian Financial Review reported that the program “further ignited and divided public opinion on a $60 billion industry’s credibility.
So what does this mean for one of Australia’s most promising industries?
There has been no shortage of Greens and other politicians expressing their opinion in the public sphere. One industry figure who has taken action is Nick Davies, chairman of Dart Energy. Dart last week responded to further restrictions on coal seam gas developments by suspending its field operations in NSW, and shifting attention overseas. It slashed costs and sacked 70 per cent of its work force, while joining AGL in saying billions of dollars worth of investment and hundreds of manufacturing jobs would be affected.
The AIIA (NSW) provided members with a rare chance to meet a senior oil and gas executive, and hear an industry view. He talked about the rise of unconventional gas around the world, and the political issues that surround it. This included views on how unconventional gas is changing the climate change debate and how we look at the future energy debate.
Andrew Collins holds a BSc in engineering and masters in public affairs, both from Sydney University.
He has worked as a professional engineer in oil and gas, before eventually moving into public affairs management. Andrew has over 12 years’ public affairs experience, working in political advocacy on both sides of the Pacific.
Andrew’s professional work experience has included managing external relations for an unconventional gas company, working as an environmental policy/ climate change policy advisor in politics, as a researcher in television, and as a consultant in indigenous affairs.