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PEPANZ puts focus on natural gas

Kim Stewart Dec 12
PEPANZ puts focus on natural gas
The Pohokura gas facility in Taranaki.

When PEPANZ (Petroleum Exploration Production Association of New Zealand) was formed in the early 1970s to represent the upstream oil and gas sector, climate change and global warming had not emerged from its shell.

Almost fifty years on and much has changed, not the least of which is global warming, raising legitimate questions about the oil and gas industry’s future.

Phil Rennie, spokesman for PEPANZ says a large part of the advocacy group’s job is explaining the future role the industry has in New Zealand and how it can tackle the challenge of climate change.

“Our industry’s focus is shifting away from oil and more towards natural gas which is the fuel of the future. “Natural gas has half the emission of coal. Around the world it is booming and there’s massive global demand.”

Most forecasts predict demand for natural gas will grow by 45% over the next 20 years because of lower carbon, its affordability and reliability.

Natural gas is widely used throughout New Zealand—people use it to keep their homes warm and cook with while industrial use includes the production of food, timber, methanol, fertilisers and petrochemicals.It is also very important for the generation of electricity.

While supplying about 12% of New Zealand’s electricity, it has a crucial back up role for renew-able resources—like hydro, wind and solar—when environmental conditions result in intermittent supply.“We need that natural gas as a back-up and in that way natural gas helps to keep electricity prices low for New Zealanders.”

PEPANZ has a membership of around fifty from very large international companies right through to very small local suppliers and individuals working within the industry.

“We advocate and lobby on behalf of our members, largely at local and central government level. We regularly meet with ministers, politicians and officials and give the views of the industry. We make submissions on behalf of industry on relevant legislation. That’s a key benefit —a lot of our member companies wouldn’t have the time to go through legislation, keep up to date with what is going on and make submissions.”

Like many topical industries, more work is needed to improve the public’s understanding of the oil and gas industry and how it operates.

To facilitate that PEPANZ is running a social media campaign called Energy Voices that tells the story of natural gas and its importance to New Zealand, using educational short sharp fun graphics and videos mainly posted on Facebook.

“At the moment the content is appearing 400,000 times a week, so we’re reaching a very large number of New Zealanders. That’s a conscious effort from our industry to educate people about what we do, how we fit into the future and the benefits we bring to New Zealand.”

Currently oil and gas contributes around $2.5 billion every year to the national economy and around half a billion dollars every year to Government in taxes and royalties—dollars that will be used in social services. “We generate around 11,000 jobs around the country most of which are highly paid and specialised.

Natural gas and oil provide around half of New Zealand’s energy – helping to power homes, businesses and economy. There are so many factories, industries and jobs that rely on the energy that natural gas and oil provides.”

An annual conference provides a unique opportunity to bring members and the wider industry together to discuss the key issues affecting the industry.

This year’s conference was held in Queenstown, attracting over 200 people to discuss the topical theme of responding to change, adapting to climate change and the role the industry can play in lowering emissions.

“A big focus was on natural gas and how we can potentially export that around the world to help other countries lower emissions.

“There was a lot of talk on carbon capture and storage which is new technology enabling the capture of emissions and another way we can reduce and off-set our emissions.” With the global shift to natural gas, exciting developments are in the wind for New Zealand.

“This summer there will be some exploration and drilling off the Otago coast looking for new fields. The following year there’s a new field off the coast of South Canterbury that will be drilled.

“If those fields are successful it could be enormous for New Zealand—it could be tens of billions of dollars in royalties for the crown and wider economic benefits.

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