National Energy Resources Australia chairman Ken Fitzpatrick addresses media on the sidelines of the Australasian Oil & Gas Conference & Exhibition (AOG). Image courtesy AOG.

National Energy Resources Australia chairman Ken Fitzpatrick addresses media on the sidelines of the Australasian Oil & Gas Conference & Exhibition (AOG). Image courtesy AOG.

By Sarah Byrne

LOW COMMODITY prices are the key driver in getting oil and gas companies to collaborate, according to Ken Fitzpatrick, chair of the newly established National Energy Resources Australia (NERA).

Mr Fitzpatrick used the opening of the Australasian Oil & Gas Conference & Exhibition (AOG) as the setting for the launch of the Perth-based development.

NERA is one of six growth centres that form part of the Australian Government’s $248 million industry growth centres initiative.

Speaking with Oil & Gas Australia, Mr Fitzpatrick said the initiative aims to enable growth through industry-led collaboration, innovation and knowledge-sharing.

Miranda Taylor, former environment, safety and operational performance director with the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has been appointed chief executive of the organisation.

NERA’s headquarters is co-located with the WA Energy Research Alliance (WA:ERA) at the Australian Resources Research Centre at Technology Park, Perth.

NERA will work with the oil, gas, coal and uranium sectors to unlock commercial opportunities and drive innovation by building links between businesses and industry organisations, training providers and the science and research sector.

Its role is one of facilitation, networking and  activation, not duplication, the group said in a statement to the press.

“NERA is intended to support the oil, gas, coal seam gas, coal, uranium and related service industries in Australia. NERA’s vision is that by 2025 the sector is a world leader, growing, sustainable, innovative, globally competitive and productive,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Ongoing investment in operations and maintenance in the sector is around $450 billion over the next 25 years, which Mr Fitzpatrick said is a great opportunity for Australia.

Acknowledging the challenges of getting companies working in a conservative and competitive sector to collaborate, Mr Fitzpatrick said oil and gas companies will be pushed to participate as a result of the ongoing low oil price environment.

“It’s [oil price] about $35 a barrel today, all of the oil and gas companies have taken massive writedowns this year –  Woodside, Santos, Origin, Senex, Beach, all of the Australian companies’ profits have been reduced as a result of the commodity price, so now is the time, now is the catalyst to foster new partnerships,” he said.

“The driver is the low commodity price, now is the opportunity for people to say well why not do business differently, why don’t we look at how to share some services and how we can share best practice so that we are all more successful.”

Mr Fitzpatrick cited the UK North Sea as a model the Australian industry can learn from.

“This has been happening in the UK North Sea for the past five or six years and so there is a model out there that works.”

“Our mission is to improve competitiveness, collaboration and productivity by focussing on reducing costs, directing research to industry needs, improving work skills, facilitating partnerships and reducing regulatory burden.”

Mr Fitzpatrick announced three key staff appointments to build the organisations connections and networks with industry across Australia.

Nigel Haywood has been appointed general manager of education and work skills, the supply chain development general manager is Craig Banks and Jill Stajduhar will take on the role of general manager of industry-research.

“The General Managers will promote industry and research collaboration, innovation in the supply chain and education and work skills development, and bring with them extensive networks,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Working nationwide with participants across the sector to understand industry needs, the general managers will facilitate collaboration and communicate NERA initiatives and report on delivery against outcomes as it works towards unlocking new opportunities for growth.

Later this year, NERA will establish nodes in Adelaide and Brisbane.

“We have strong support from the Western Australian Government and WA:ERA.”

“I would like to thank both the WA Government and WA:ERA partners CSIRO, Curtin University and The University of Western Australia for their positive support to the growth centre,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.