Woodside Energy chief executive Meg O’Neill believes image challenges facing her sector locally reflect the views of a vocal minority, rather than widespread community opposition.
Speaking to City of Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas in front of delegates of the World Energy Cities Partnership’s Perth visit this morning, Ms O'Neill said there was a lot of support in the community for natural gas and its role in the energy transition.
Quizzed on the opposition from a section of Fremantle Dockers members to Woodside’s recently renewed partnership with the local AFL club, she acknowledged the challenges faced locally by her company and others in the sector.
“There’s a small number of people who are going to be very noisy,” Ms O'Neill said.
“I think the question for us is, can we do more to get the large majority of people to get a little more voca?”
She highlighted the example of Major League Baseball team the Houston Astros as an example of differing attitudes to energy companies across different parts of the world.
Earlier this year, the Astros struck a seven-year shirt sponsorship deal with Occidental Petroleum and partners with companies including Calpine, Cheniere, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Freeport LNG, Halliburton and SLB through its community leaders program.
Ms O'Neill said the situation domestically was slightly different but that the majority were still in support of her company and its work.
“In our context here, there are a few people who are noisy and a lot of people who are quietly supportive of what we do,” she said.
“At the end of the day we know what we’re doing makes a difference, we know it’s important, and we want to make a difference in the communities where we live and call home.”
Opposition to Woodside’s operations resulted in a high-profile incident at Ms O’Neill’s City Beach home in early August, where five climate protestors were arrested.
Ms O'Neill said she respected people's right to protest the incredibly important subject of climate change, but that the incident at her home had crossed a line.
“We welcome robust discussion, but when it crosses the line from peaceful events to something that is law-breaking, even things like defacing property, intimidating people, that’s just not on,” she said.
“Our employees have the right to come to work safely.”
Woodside has been vocal about the importance of natural gas as an energy transition fuel, and is developing the Scarborough project off the north-west coast, along with the Trion oil project in the Gulf of Mexico and the Sangomar oil field in Senegal, at a cost of billions.
Ms O'Neill said she believed it would be generations before natural gas would cease to be part of the world’s energy mix.
“Not in my lifetime, is the easiest way to say it,” she said.
“It might be in my grandchildren’s lifetime, maybe in my children’s lifetime, but I do think it is a long way off.
“Again, the aspiration is net zero, not absolute zero, and I think we all need to keep that in mind.”
Woodside is also progressing opportunities in hydrogen – led by its H2OK project in Oklahoma – and ammonia, as well as carbon capture technology in Australia and abroad.