Oil and Gas News

Ensuring Australia benefits from oil and gas

Andrew McConville may have only been the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) chief executive officer for a year, but his drive and passion for the oil and gas industry is clear.

After 11 years in Switzerland as global head of external affairs and communications for Syngenta, one of the world’s largest agricultural technology companies, McConville was keen to move back to home soil.

However, only a job with the right structures and strategies in place would coax McConville from the lush scenes of Switzerland back to Australia.

When he was approached by APPEA to take on the role as CEO, McConville said it “ticked all the right boxes” and by April last year he had started his new position. 

From the start McConville was determined to continue APPEA’s leadership and guidance of the oil and gas industry’s major contribution to the Australian economy through exports, job opportunities and taxation revenue.

There was also a big push from McConville to introduce a new strategic direction for the organisation.

“I really wanted to craft a new narrative and sharpen the focus of the organisation on to members and the value we add for them,” McConville told Oil & Gas Today.

“Every organisation has to be clear on what it wants to achieve, so it needs an articulate vision and strategy. I think the importance of getting that in place early has been very significant.”

While his tenure as CEO is yet to reach a year, McConville believes he has learnt a lot, especially the importance of explaining the role natural gas plays in the future and the benefits the industry brings to local communities.

Australia’s current resources of natural gas, both offshore and onshore, are enough for more than 50 years, based on current production.

Natural gas is the nation’s third largest energy resource, after coal and uranium, and is a crucial part of Australia’s energy mix, providing a quarter of the nation’s needs.

McConville believes the opportunities for Australia’s natural gas fall into three classes.

The first is the way Australia conducts operations and how effective and environmentally responsible the industry in the country can become.

“Using technology to ensure we are minimising emissions. Whether that be a commitment to reducing routine flaring, minimising fugitive emissions, or supporting the development of larger technology such as carbon capture and storage to reduce the impact we have in developing our oil and gas resources,” McConville said.

Secondly, it is about understanding the role natural gas can play in implementing renewables.

McConville is a firm believer that natural gas has strong potential as an efficient and effective source of energy with lower emissions than coal and which complements the development
of renewables.

“As we want to increase our renewable energy, I think it is really important to know the role natural gas can play as a transition fuel. Natural gas has evidence to show it has half the emissions of coal as an efficient energy source,” McConville said.

Finally, the flow-on effect of Australia maintaining the status as the world’s largest exporter of LNG and the impact it has internationally.

“$50 billion worth of exports is a very important contribution to the Australian economy, and we need to see that continue both in terms of jobs, foreign exchange and strengthening of the Australian economy,” McConville said.

“We need to make sure we are maintaining our competitiveness overseas for LNG while also ensuring we have adequate supplies of natural gas here for domestic manufacturing.”

With Australian gas exported to China, India and other parts of Asia, McConville said it was effectively replacing higher emissions energy sources, helping to reduce importing country emissions from energy generation by up to 50 per cent.

“The government’s own research suggests exports of natural gas could reduce up to around 150 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from China which is the equivalent of one quarter of Australia’s annual emissions,” McConville said.

McConville said it was pivotal that the industry focussed on making sure there was access to Australia’s resources and developed them in a way that responsibly generates revenues.

To achieve this in the next decade, science-based regulations that are predictable and transparent with minimal government inferences will be needed, he added.

“One of the things we see is that it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to develop natural gas resources. Over the last decade we have seen around $350 billion worth of investment into the industry and now that exploration has dropped off,” McConville said.

“We want to ensure we have an investment policy that encourages innovation investment, including good environmental regulations.”

McConville said it was essential that government understood its position on a range of issues that led to adequate investment policy being introduced. This includes viewing APPEA and the industry as part of the solution, not just part of a problem.

“It’s about understanding the objectives of government and coming forward with how we can help meet those objectives,” McConville said.

APPEA is also introducing new initiatives to ensure the industry has a future talent pool, addressing a recent skills shortage.

Its Bright Sparks initiative has been designed to celebrate young people in the industry, showcasing what they do in their careers.

APPEA is working to collaborate with universities and other institutions around the nation so the association can talk to the students of tomorrow about career opportunities.

“If we don’t start thinking about this now, then by the time the gap is there, it will be too late. We need to get ahead of it and be out there talking about the benefits the industry can bring and the opportunities that exist with world-class jobs, in a world-class industry right here in Australia, often in regional areas,” McConville concluded.

“We see ourselves as very privileged to represent the industry and we are absolutely focussed on being the voice of industry.” 

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