The Voice – Richard Owen, ExxonMobil Australia

22 February 2019

Richard Owen, Chairman and Lead Country Manager, ExxonMobil Australia

What have been the key highlights for the industry in the past 12 months?

Any discussion about the industry in Australia needs to be divided into two very different jurisdictions – the west and the east.

In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the last 12 months have involved on-going growth as companies continue to bed-down and ramp up the large gas projects and look for opportunities to capture a greater share of the growing regional LNG market.

In the eastern states it’s more complex. I think we will look back on 2018 as a turning point. The broader community has come to appreciate the importance of gas to our economy and has finally realised that the cheap supplies we have relied on for half a century have run out. We are now part of the global gas market and, like most economies around the world, we have to compete for our gas supplies in the same way we compete for our oil.

Anything we can do to maximise gas production from our own resources will deliver multiple benefits to the economy in terms of jobs, skills and balance of trade.   

In 2019 ExxonMobil celebrates the impressive milestone of 50 years of offshore production. What factors do you think will have the biggest impact on the industry in 2019 and how can companies effectively prepare for the future?

Our nation-building discoveries in Bass Strait in the 1960s resulted from the convergence of new technology, skills, knowledge, investment capital, vision and determination. It involved collaboration between government, the community, and the shareholders of Esso and BHP. Without the involvement and alignment of all the stakeholders, the costly and ambitious exploration program would probably have remained a pipe dream.

If there is one fundamental change in our industry that I have witnessed over my career, it’s the increased involvement of our community stakeholders. Today the community clearly wants to have a greater say in where our energy supplies come from and how they are developed.

In 2019 we should continue to work hard to ensure we are firmly aligned to the values, hopes and aspirations of our community.

Since those initial Bass Strait oil and gas discoveries the industry has acquired vast knowledge of our nation’s petroleum resource potential. We have also accumulated a massive, highly skilled workforce.

Anything we can do to responsibly realise the full potential of these assets will deliver tremendous benefits to our industry and to the nation as a whole. To achieve this we will have to successfully compete globally for the huge capital investments needed to develop our resources. This will mean continuing to improve our cost structures and working with governments to establish stable, consistent, long-term policy settings.       

What do you feel is the most important reason to attend APPEA 2019?

Ours has always been an industry that relies on a constant supply of new ideas. We are always dealing with diminishing resources, so we need new ideas to maximise reservoir recovery rates and to find new fields. The annual APPEA conference is the premier event in this country for sharing ideas between all the stakeholders – the producers, the explorers, the service providers and government, the resource owners. This is where we can find out what’s new, what’s available to overcome challenges we may be facing, to improve our performance, or to inspire ideas for new opportunities.

It’s like going to the hardware store on the weekend, you often don’t really know what you want until you see it.

Richard Owen will present at APPEA 2019 in the plenary session ‘Staying the course – east coast gas market challenges and opportunities‘ on Thursday 30 May, 8.30am – 10.30am.

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