The 2015 Energy Outlook: Oil & Gas

In Australia’s energy market, it is certainly all about the gas in 2015.

Major gas projects around the country are stepping ever closer to completion, and the most notable will be QGC’s liquefaction plant on Curtis Island, QCLNG.

Construction contractor Bechtel says the QCLNG plant will be filling up the tanks, and then ships with freshly liquefied gas from the Surat Basin by 20 December 2014, but last minute efforts to spur workers into greater productivity with lotteries and promises of huge cash prizes for doing overtime speak of a desperate attempt to meet the deadline.

Over on the west coast the Gorgon project is plodding away under the looming shadow of protected industrial action.

The greatly delayed project is forecast to cross the finishing line late in 2015, but workers have recently voted down the EBA proposal by more than 80 per cent, and if Chevron don’t concede a roster change from 4/1 to 3/1 there may be further costly delays to the project.

An exciting but controversial new development lies in the advent of FLNG.

A massive, floating LNG plant is under construction in South Korea, one which will contain a single LNG liquefaction train and will be capable of processing onshore gas from off the NW shelf.

Unions are concerned the offshore vessel will compromise local jobs, and safety conditions, but a WA parliamentary inquiry is currently thrashing out the issue of whether these vessels will be safe enough under existing Australian offshore petroleum regulations.

The producers say yes, but others are concerned that FLNG is far more complicated than existing oil exploration and production rigs, given that the vessel will contain the cryogenic risks of an entire LNG train, compressed into one sixth of the space it would occupy on land.

Santos, who are not far behind QCLNG with their GLNG plant on Curtis Island, have proposed a new raft of LNG investment in the Surat and Bowen Basins, which will continue the expansion of Queensland’s gas reserves and have infrastructure construction work continuing through 2015.

Ongoing investment in the Queensland gas fields will see a need for 1700 new construction roles with Santos, albeit rolled out over the next 20 years.

The latest insight from BNP Paribas (30 October) says that China is set to become the world’s largest oil consumer by 2027, and the world’s second largest gas consumer by 2025, so in the meantime we can expect a solid export market for newly developed gas.

However, gas production projects around the world are on the increase, and this will result in falling prices, just as it has done for iron ore and coal. Whether this results in a positive effect on the hip pocket of Australian consumers will depend on our domestic distributors, rather than on global trading prices. Australian gas has seen predictions that the domestic price will triple by 2021, making everyone wonder what happened to all the promises of cheaper gas thanks to the bevy of new liquefaction plants.

In September gas explorer and producer AWE released the details of a massive new gas discovery, which could be the biggest discovery since Santos in the 60s.

The new field is called the Waitsia Discovery (formerly Seneco Deep), and is located in the North Perth basin.

Gross contingent resources in the area range from 65 to 1170 billion cubic feet of gas, and will be an exciting new play to watch in WA gas in 2015.

Oil in Australia also saw an excellent new discovery earlier this year off the North West shelf, the Phoenix South-1 project, potentially one of the biggest oil finds in Australian history.

Log and core data from explorer Canarvon Petroleum’s drilling of four confirmed oil columns will be released before the end of 2014, which will indicate the potential of the resource for next year.

On a geopolitical note some alarming re-ports have come out about threats made by Al Quaida and militant jihadists to cut off the “Achilles Heel of western economies”, which identified choke points to attack and included targeting oil shipping routes to Australia.

With more than 90 per cent of Australia’s oil imported, new oil discoveries such as the Phoenix South-1 project will become more valuable in terms of helping to secure our energy security, regardless of whether there is any weight to the threats.

BP has also announced it will increase exploration in the Great Australian Bight, and next year will commence plans to build a new helicopter landing facility, and possibly and airstrip which will be dedicated to servicing exploration rigs in the Southern Ocean.

The oil giant has awarded a $138 million contract to international helicopter company Bristow Group to set up the new air base at Ceduna, meaning a great construction project will create more jobs in area, which in turn will become a new centre for offshore oil exploration in Australia.

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