Q&A: APPEA CEO Malcolm Roberts

APPEA’s new chief executive Malcolm Roberts

APPEA’s new chief executive Malcolm Roberts

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s newly appointed Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts believes it’s an exciting time to take the reins and says Australia has a unique opportunity to compete with the world.

How are you finding the role so far?

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry! We’ve got tremendous investment that is getting to the stage now where we see projects getting to first gas.
So far that’s been achieved with one of the Queensland projects [the Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) Project], and by the end of the year we’ll see all three projects in Queensland producing LNG exports [the Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) Project, GLNG Project and QCLNG Project].
When you look at it, these are some impressive projects that are getting to the stage now of actually making some money.

How will floating LNG (FLNG) change the gas industry?

I think it’s important to recognise that FLNG allows projects to be developed that probably wouldn’t otherwise be commercial feasible, because it does reduce the upfront capital costs.
FLNG just gives us another option to find a competitive solution, and I mean competitive in the global sense of the environment – to develop reserves that would otherwise probably be out of reach.
It’s a great step forward and we’re finding ways to convert reserves that are difficult to develop into the basis of good projects – whether it’s CSG, or using FLNG to get the project economics right.

How do you plan to work with government?

We’re trying to start the conversation with both Commonwealth and state governments about how we can look at the regulatory framework that we have and simplify and streamline it as much as possible.
An APPEA study from a couple of years ago showed in effect that on average a Canadian project could get to market about three months earlier through the regulatory process, which I suspect is probably getting even tougher in some ways.

Why do you think that is?

That’s for onshore projects in particular, because the community issues are significant, and the social licence issues are significant.
Although, as we’re seeing, the political response to that often enough is to add more regulation, or add new steps to the regulatory process.
But the work that APPEA has done over the last couple of years demonstrates pretty clearly that if we get our regulatory framework right, if we look at controlling our costs, we can be very competitive selling gas to Japan, compared to places like Canada.

Do you see that changing anytime soon?

I hope that we can convince government. As I say, it’s not just a state government or a federal government issue, but there’s a need to do a few things.
One is the case of the Fair Work Act, and we really do believe that it will be important to reform that act to allow for a new category of agreement – a major projects agreement, that would be designed to support big capital projects.
There’s a host of issues here though. We are going to be a high cost location for many of our projects because of the isolation, and there are always going to be those difficulties, and there are also some features of our geology that make it difficult.

To read the Gas Today’s full exclusive interview with Dr Roberts, make sure to pick up the latest Spring Edition of Gas Today.

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