Woodside boss laments LNG ‘black eye’ amidst climate debate

The boss of Australia’s biggest LNG company has said the sector had copped an unfair ‘black eye’ in the climate change debate that had amped up in the wake of some of the worst bushfires the country has ever seen.

Speaking at the International Petroleum Technology Conference in Saudi Arabia this week Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman said LNG wasn’t the ‘cigarette industry’ and needed to show the company was serious about action on climate change.

Woodside Petroleum chief executive Peter Coleman.
Woodside Petroleum chief executive Peter Coleman.Credit:AAP

In an interview with Bloomberg on the sidelines of the conference, Mr Coleman revealed climate change had soared up to top spot of the business risk list and was putting pressure public perception of the product, long term financing and attracting talent.

“Five years ago climate change was not the biggest issue we were dealing with today it is by far the biggest issue,” he said.


“It’s in a number of areas, one is what do consumers think about the product that we’re selling and that’s the most important thing. Is it a product in the long term that consumers want?

“Secondly, can we attract employees, new employees coming into the industry?

“Do they want to be part of an industry that at the moment is getting a bit of a black eye at the moment, and I think unfairly?”

WA’s LNG sector is one of the biggest contributors to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions with Woodside and Chevron alone contributing 22 million tonnes of carbon to Australia’s 336 million tonnes in 2017-18, according to the Clean Energy Regulator.

Mr Coleman told the conference the company needed to make sure it had the most climate-friendly product it could possibly produce.

Climate groups are sceptical of this, however, after Woodside led the sector’s charge against net-zero carbon emissions when new guidelines were announced by WA’s Environmental Protection Authority last year, arguing it would put huge investment decisions unlocking new gas fields off WA’s north-west coast at risk.

According to documents submitted for approval by the EPA Woodside’s Browse gas field project would emit at least 112 million tonnes over the minimum expected field life to around 2050, figures that have shocked environmentalists.

Anti-Woodside sentiment amongst climate groups in WA has grown to such a pitch that they plan on protesting the company’s sponsorship of Fringe World, a hugely popular arts and culture festival that runs over the back end of summer across Perth.

Mr Coleman said the world needed LNG if it was to displace higher emissions fuels and meet Paris Agreements targets.

Natural gas must play a growing role in the years ahead, displacing higher emissions fuel, if the world is to have a chance of meeting the Paris Agreement targets

“It is a fossil fuel and it is emitting but is significantly less than the alternatives,” he said.

“It’s really the only fuel where you’ve got a large supply that can supply the market in the time frame that’s required to meet the Paris commitments by 2050.”

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