ANDREW-HOBBSBy Andrew Hobbs, Group Editor

SWELTERING in their suits just behind the Perth City Busport on a hot April afternoon at the end of the 2014 Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Conference and Exhibition, delegates had a lot to talk about.

After three days of talks and presentations by industry leaders from both Australia and overseas, the theme of Australia’s productivity and competitiveness was front and centre – as it has been for the last four years I have been able to attend.

All speakers were in furious agreement that collaboration between government and industry and between businesses themselves were the only way forward.

But there were few suggestions as to exactly what form those collaborations should take.

International Gas Union president Jérôme Ferrier urged the global gas community to work together to counter negative messages about gas production.

Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said LNG buyers and sellers must come together on contracts that were mutually beneficial – adding that a reduction in costs was essential.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane said government was working with industry to reduce production costs and increase productivity – saying these must come hand in hand with Australia’s higher wages.

He also said the Australian government was determined to support industry efforts to create and commercialise innovative technologies aimed at developing Australian resources more effectively.

But despite the mention of a few institutes – the Chevron Global Technology Centre in Perth among them – there was little discussion of how best to move forward with innovation.

For Wood Mackenzie’s Vice President of Exploration Andrew Latham, at least, the future was in unconventional gas plays.

Dr Latham said companies were progressively prioritising value over volume, leading to a change in exploration focus away from high impact frontier exploration.

This had led to a greater interest in short-term opportunities, oil-rich plays and conventional exploration in emerging and mature basins, which provide an earlier return on risk capital, he said.

The problem, he said, was that Australian exploration is currently dominated by long-term gas plays and unproven frontiers – two themes of declining interest for many companies.

If Australia is to tackle this challenge head on, all associated players must come together to do more than simply talk – whether out in the sun or at a convention centre.