Federal resources minister Madeleine King has told the state’s Energy Transition Summit that industry must take some of the blame for a lack of timely project development.
Federal resources minister Madeleine King has told the state’s Energy Transition Summit that industry must take some of the blame for a lack of timely gas project development in WA.
Speaking to a room of delegates including leaders in the oil and gas sector, Ms King said the government was working to improve the speed and clarity of the regulatory approvals process, but that industry needed to accept its role in bringing project online.
Approvals hurdles have been in the spotlight in recent times, with operators and international investors voicing concerns over the speed of approvals and uncertainty around consultation obligations.
“I understand that the gas industry is concerned by the pace of approvals and uncertainty around consultation processes that recent judicial developments have raised,” she said.
“Work is underway in the government to address those issues, and I understand that investors and the community need certainty.
“The government accepts the situation we are in right now does not always provide that certainty, but this cannot be a one way street.”
In September, Woodside Energy recently had a seismic surveying environmental approval overturned by the Federal Court after the regulator was found to have made the decision outside of its statutory power.
This week, the same court extended an injunction against Santos’ $US4.7 billion Barossa project until January, in response to action taken by Traditional Owners over the environmental impact of works approved in March 2020.
But Ms King pointed out that Woodside’s Browse gas field was discovered before she was born, and that the Scarborough project in development was found when she was in primary school.
The minister said Browse’s development had been caught in delays due to demand uncertainty, processing agreements and corporate decisionmaking, community misgivings and a “challenging community of joint venture partners”.
She said it would be unfair and untrue to foot the blame for the delays in bringing the major gas projects online with government alone.
“Over the decades since the discoveries of those fields, corporate decision to put off capital expenditure have occurred for various reasons, and in the meantime, expectations of the wider community have changed,” Ms King said.
“As one would expect over the decades, government laws and regulations, and the governments and regulators themselves have changed.
“The government is now working to ensure there is clarity for everyone.”
Ms King also fired a shot around the extent of consultation undertaken by industry operators, saying industry needed to do a better job ensuring it was carrying out consultation to the highest order – particularly Traditional Owners.
“No one needs to wait for government to tell them to do the right thing,” she said.
Echoing the sentiment of premier Roger Cook and cabinet colleague Chris Bowen this morning, Ms King backed the role of natural gas in the energy transition.
She acknowledged the importance of getting the regulatory environment right to capitalise on the regional opportunity.
“If we’re not supplying LNG to our neighbours it does not necessarily mean that they will stop using it,” Ms King said.
“They might simply look elsewhere for those supplies. And if they do, then Australia’s voice in the region will be diminished.”