ADGO 2017

This is one way of putting it: “The faint odor of gas that began wafting through the Australian energy debate has now become a major stink.”

Thus a tabloid newspaper reporter this month, yet one more indication that the discussion, and not infrequently the shouting match, about domestic gas supply over the past five years has started to reach broader public awareness.

The problem and the debating points are not news to the main stakeholders in the gas industry, whether suppliers, pipeliners or large consumers – and the current state of play will again be the substance of Quest Events’ Australian Domestic Gas Outlook conference, the fifth of its ilk starting in Sydney next week (on Tuesday 14 March).

As co-chairs, University of Queensland professor Andrew Garnett and I, will not be struggling to keep a large audience engaged over three days; rather, our challenge will be to enable the many points at issue to get an adequate hearing, so broad is the canvas of this saga.

The hard part of developing a forum like this is that the program must perforce be arranged well in advance and this is shifting ground; the key is to bring together people who can provide important updates and those whose knowledge and experience provide acute insights in the light of current developments.

ADGO 2017 does just this, I believe.

Speakers include Warwick King, the new CEO of Australia Pacific LNG, David Maxwell, managing director of Cooper Energy, Paul Adams, managing director of Jemena, Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, John Pierce, chairman of the AEMC, Richard Cottee, managing director of Central Petroleum, Rob Wheals, a senior executive of APA Group, David Baker, managing director of Strike Energy, Mark Collette, a senior executive of EnergyAustralia, Tony Mahar, CEO of the National Farmers Federation, Michael Thomson, CEO of the NT’s Power & Water Corporation, David Rynne, chief economist of Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources & Mines, Anthony Fowler, CEO of Lochard Energy, Tony Wood, energy director of the Grattan Institute, and Jim Snow of Oakley Greenwood.

My own favorite time at these Quest Events “energy outlook” conferences is the Q&A sessions and ADGO 2017 includes three especially promising offerings:

  • “Is there a way out of the triple whammy that has hit the domestic market?” – featuring APPEA’s Malcolm Roberts, AiG’s Tennant Reed, Senex Energy MD Ian Davies, Mike Lawson, deputy secretary of the Federal Industry Department, and also Bruce Wilson, head of the department’s resources division.
  • “How can the gas market operate more efficiently than it is today?” – featuring Paul Adams, Rosemary Sinclair, CEO of Energy Consumers Australia, Peter Dobney of Orora Group and Rob Wheals.
  • “Gas in the broader context of the transition to a lower-emissions economy with secure, affordable energy supply” – featuring two former federal ministers, Martin Ferguson and Ian Macfarlane, who is now CEO of the Queensland Resources Council.

If anything, over the five years of ADGO forums, we have seen the difficulties growing of achieving the core challenge of the eastern gas market – getting more gas to the market – and, not surprisingly, the consequences of this not happening in the final years of this decade have become of increasing concern, not least to the nation’s trade-exposed manufacturers.

Just days ago APPEA’s Malcolm Roberts warned a supply shortfall, under present circumstances, looms in 2019 – that’s just 800 days away if winter is the time of maximum concern.

Graeme Bethune’s highly-respected EnergyQuarterly publication, in the latest issue just published, makes this observation: “Demand destruction is evident as a consequence of higher gas prices combined with high power prices leading to business closures or output reductions, as are reflected in the broad assumptions of AEMO’s (most recent) demand assumptions. Businesses as diverse as food processors, wool processors, glass manufacturers as well as other energy intensive industries such as concrete, fertiliser and aluminium production are struggling under gas contract prices that have doubled in the past year. Some manufacturers are saying that three out of four gas suppliers are not able to offer gas. Some companies are looking to bio gas/biomass to protect their businesses.”

Crisis is a much over-worked word in Australia’s political debate, but it seems to me this situation probably classifies as one, even if it is relatively slow-moving.

ADGO 2017 can’t deliver solutions but it will provide a spectrum of stakeholders with a fresh opportunity to canvass what these now are.

It’s a very timely event, I think.


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