Gas industry has 'lost the trust of the public’

Gas industry has 'lost the trust of the public’


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Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman has warned the industry must change public opinion. Photo: Trevor Collens

Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman has warned the industry must change public opinion. Photo: Trevor Collens

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The nation's oil and gas industry has "lost the trust of the public", which is threatening its so-called "social licence", the head of one of the country's largest gas producers has warned.

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The nation's oil and gas industry has "lost the trust of the public", which is threatening its so-called "social licence", the head of one of the country's largest gas producers has warned.

Speaking at an industry conference, Peter Coleman, the chief executive of Woodside Petroleum warned the industry's "social licence to operate is at risk" in light of the widespread bans which have blocked onshore exploration and development in several parts of the country.

As a result, the gas industry must develop "principles and processes" to smooth the way when dealing with landowners.

"The exploration and drilling bans are symptomatic of a trust deficit ... between our industry and the broader community," Mr Coleman said. "The imbalance between exports and domestic gas has made this worse.

"If we are to get onshore development back on track .. a first step might be .. to consult and agree on a code of conduct for land access and use that recognises and assuages landowners' concerns. We need to commit to  clear set of principles and processes to enable us to work with land owners and affected communities.

"We need to ensure some of the resources we develop are available for Australian consumers, and available at a price that is sustainable for both the consumer and the producer."

His comments come in the wake of the intervention by the federal government to ensure domestic gas supplies are insulated from a supply deficit that has emerged with the start-up of gas export projects in Queensland over the past 18 months.

This has left large manufacturers, for example, facing steep price rises and in many cases unable to obtain sufficient supplies. Additionally, some states such as Queensland have made the development of some gas reserves conditional on supplying the local market, with calls for NSW to follow suit. 

"Our whole industry loses out if gas is no longer seen as a reliable and available energy source, if we as producers are seen to be creating problems for the community rather than solving them," Mr Coleman said. "In those circumstances, our social licence to operate is at risk."

"Exploration is already in dire straits. We should all be concerned if it becomes even harder for small to mid-cap explorers to attract backing," he said, since it is typically the smaller companies that undertake much of the higher risk exploration work.

"We need to convey to the community that we understand they own the resources," Mr Coleman said. "As resource developers, we commit to being responsible stewards of the environment. But over and above this we have a responsibility to make a contribution ot energy security."

Mr Coleman warned that federal government intervention could inhibit the development of additional gas to supply the domestic market, and the study into supplying gas from western Australia to the east coast, as was unveiled in last week's Budget may be financially challenging.

Sydney Morning Herald.

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