Energy industry battles COVID-19

Like many industries, the oil, gas and energy sectors are facing an unprecedented challenge at present with the spread of COVID-19 and its massive impact on worldwide economies.

The collapse of the oil price and the drop in LNG exports, along with restrictions on working conditions and travel are just some of the elements effecting Australia’s energy industry.

Many of the sector’s important marquee events have also been postponed or cancelled, including the Australian Domestic Gas Outlook and Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conferences, dates in the calendar that are often vital for companies to acquire work and maximise the reach of their brands.

Unfortunately, jobs have been, and will continue to be, lost and the uncertainty around the future makes it difficult to know when things might begin to return to some semblance of normality.

The industry responds

To combat the immense challenge, industry groups and associations have begun to look at measures to keep the wheels in motion as best they can.

After consultation with its members and associates, APGA and APPEA released a joint statement on Friday outlining the steps both groups were taking to ensure critical energy supplies would be maintained throughout Australia.

APGA CEO Steve Davies said keeping workforces and their support networks healthy was vital to the continued safe functionality of energy facilities.

“We are ensuring good information flows and open channels of communication as they are absolutely essential elements of the response in this rapidly changing situation,” said Mr Davies.

“We are continuously monitoring the situation and are taking appropriate precautions to ensure the energy we need in our homes, commerce and industry is delivered.”

Such precautions include protecting personnel through sanitation and social distancing measures, working with supply chains to maintain access to equipment and services, helping local businesses manage the economic challenges and maintaining maritime services to support offshore operations and export markets.

APPEA CEO Andrew McConville said oil and gas was vital to Australia’s economy and the associations were in consistent discussions with Australia’s political leaders.

“The oil and gas industry underpins around 80,000 direct and indirect jobs – and hundreds of thousands of Australian jobs rely on the reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of oil and gas,” said Mr McConville.

“The resilience of our business is essential in maintaining the broader health of our economy and is our key focus during this challenging period.”

Following the further tightening of restrictions over the weekend, Mr McConville said the association was focused on the ensuring movement of FIFO and other essential staff would continue despite border closers.

Mr McConville and a number of APPEA members are scheduled to meet with the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt today to stress the importance of oil and gas production being considered an essential service.

APGA made the decision to cancel all of its events until the end of May; Mr Davies said even though the timeline might prove to be considerably longer than this, the association was working towards new solutions.

“Networking and collaboration are the two key services the association provides to members.

“These services are more important than ever as we work together (in isolation) to adapt to the rapidly changing environment,” he said.

Instead, APGA plans to hold a series of webinars for its Pipeline Operators Group next month, hold virtual workshops centred around new information and improving guidelines that will replace previously planned larger external versions, and have the third cohort of its popular Women’s Leadership Development Program to kick off in a virtual classroom.

The Australian Energy Council and Energy Networks Australia also released a joint statement on Friday, saying their members had been working to maintain the safety of their people and the security of the energy system.

“There continues to be industry-wide consultation on pandemic preparations and necessary responses with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in regular discussions with generators, network and transmission companies and gas companies,” said Australian Energy Council Chief Executive Sarah McNamara.

Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said their plans would “ensure the lights stay on and the gas keeps flowing”.

“Every part of the energy supply chain will face challenges, which is why we are ensuring we keep communicating between businesses, with government and importantly with customers,” said Mr Dillon.

“If you are under isolation, have been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19 and require a network crew to attend your property, please contact your network provider so appropriate steps can be taken.

“We all have a role to play in limiting infection and protecting the general public and essential personnel.”

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