Gas is no enemy of renewable energy, Shell boss tells conference

Gas, not coal, was the fossil fuel that would take the traditional energy industry into the future, a national industry conference has been told.

The annual Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference is being held in Brisbane this week, with the result of the recent federal election front of many delegate’s minds.

APPEA chair and Shell Australia chief Zoe Yujnovich said in the wake of the election result, which saw the Coalition returned to power, the industry had an opportunity to “plant the seeds of positive public debate” around energy.

“In the wake of the election, when armchair experts are hoarse from shouting, we have a real opportunity to drive real change,” she said.


“What we can do now is assist this Coalition government to overcome the tumult that has surrounded energy and resources policy in Australia for too long.”

Ms Yujnovich said natural gas was the way forward for the traditional energy sector, because it enabled investment in renewables by providing the baseline power which coal currently does.

She said getting the message out that natural gas was an ally, not an enemy, of renewable energy was key if the sector wanted to move forward with the support of the general public.

“Armed with megaphones or iPhones, an increasing number of professional activists and increasing numbers of ideologically driven volunteers are waging a virtual war with religious zealotry,” she said.

“What the industry needs to avoid is being drawn into the trap of either/or debates.

“These opposition constructs … create face-offs between mutually beneficial technologies.


As Ms Yujnovich spoke there was an environmental demonstration outside the convention centre, protesting the industry in general and the process of fracking to extract gas.

Philip Winzer from the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network said the environmental downside to the gas production industry outweighed its benefit as a transitional energy source.

“Opening up new areas to dangerous gas and oil fracking and drilling will unleash a massive carbon bomb on our communities and the world, and poses an unacceptable risk to health of country and communities,” Mr Winzer said.

“APPEA are not acting in our best interests and need to be called out for their destructive projects that devastate local communities and the climate.”

The high-profile example environmental campaigners point to is that of Linc Energy, which was charged in 2014 with serious environmental breaches at its underground coal gasification plant at Chinchilla.

That process of extraction has now been banned after local groundwater was severely contaminated, with companies using different methods to extract gas.

Despite that, Queensland Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said gas was important to the Queensland economy and would be a way forward as they transitioned to renewable power generation.

“Fracking remains a sensitive issue, and there is much work for us to do in dispelling the fear and providing the community with more information on this practise,” Dr Lynham said.

“There is much for this industry to be proud of, for what it has done in this state.”

Dr Lynham used the opportunity to announce that energy company Senex had been awarded the contract to explored 153 square kilometres near Miles in regional Queensland for gas.

The gas produced would be earmarked for Australian supply only.

Queensland supplies about a quarter of the current east coast demand for gas, and that demand was expected to increase in the coming years.

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