Community engagement vital to future of gas industry

BUILDING public confidence will be vital to developing unconventional gas resources such as shale, a Santos vice president has said.

Martyn Eames, Santos vice president Asia Pacific, gave an address at the Asia Oil and Gas Conference in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, outlining the challenges facing the oil and gas industry.

Mr Eames said to successfully deliver unconventional resources, public confidence and land access had to be managed carefully by developers and governments.

"How this is managed will have an impact on the pace of unconventional gas development," Mr Eames said.

"Just as this industry is seeking to share knowledge on the technical side, so too must it draw upon the expertise and best practice that exists globally to engage early with communities and build public confidence." 

Mr Eames said developments also could be stalled or accelerated depending on the maturity of regulation for onshore oil and gas activities.

"If appropriate regulatory regimes are in place, ones that are based on sound science, quality data and backed by sufficient resources to allow progress - this will significantly improve the confidence of investors, while balancing the need to minimise environmental and social impacts," he said.

"If countries want to reap the benefits of an unconventional gas industry, they must work with industry to get this right, far in advance of the first well being drilled."

Mr Eames said it was vital to have a market for gas that was sufficient to allow the appropriate investments to be made.

If countries want to reap the benefits of an unconventional gas industry, they must work with industry to get this right, far in advance of the first well being drilled

He said for some countries, such as the US, domestic demand was sufficient. But in Australia domestic demand by comparison was small, requiring an export market to create the volume necessary to justify investment at scale.

"This is exactly what has happened in Australia, with three coal bed methane to LNG projects currently under construction on the east coast - our Santos GLNG project amongst them," Mr Eames said.

"The access to export markets created by these developments provided the price incentive, which is a necessary factor in attracting the investment required to unlock more technically challenging resources such as coal bed methane and shale gas."

Mr Eames said the boost that developing the world's unconventional gas resources would give to gas supply would bring a number of benefits the world couldn't ignore.

These included greater energy diversity and security of supply in countries that relied on imports to meet their gas needs. 


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