The Quarterly Q&A – with ANGEA CEO Paul Everingham – April 2024

In the April 2024 instalment of this quarterly series, Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association CEO Paul Everingham reflects on recent travels in the US, ongoing discussions about the LNG export approvals pause, CERAWeek 2024, the gas industry landscape in Australia and the months ahead for ANGEA.

You’ve recently returned from an extended period in the US, can you tell us a little bit about your travels over there?  

It was a rewarding trip, and I’m very grateful to the energy stakeholders who took the time to meet with ANGEA, and to our member companies who helped make those engagements possible. We started out in Washington DC with a series of meetings with senior US government officials and members of Congress. The US LNG export approvals pause and its impact on Asia were major topics of conversation and for many of the people we met it was their introduction to ANGEA and the work we are undertaking in Asia. After DC I had originally planned to fly to Denver for a natural gas symposium but a snowstorm in Colorado kept me in Washington and I ended up participating in the event virtually. From there, it was off to Houston for CERAWeek, which was again enjoyable and impactful. 

This was your second CERAWeek, did it feel any different because of the US LNG situation? 

That’s an interesting question. I understand the crowd at CERAWeek set another record – and any time you have so many smart, engaged and invested people in one place talking about energy solutions, there’s always a great spirit of positivity and progress. I think there was pretty wide acknowledgment in Houston that natural gas has a vital role to play if the global energy transition is to be a success. At the same time, it’s a fairly unusual feeling to be talking about the benefits gas can and will deliver for Asia and other parts of the world, against the backdrop of such uncertainty from the largest global exporter of LNG. Until the approvals pause is lifted and LNG customers worldwide have certainty again, that feeling will probably stay. 

Do you feel Asia’s energy needs – particularly around LNG – are becoming better understood in the US?

ANGEA is very appreciative of the welcoming reception we got from both sides of US politics and also US government officials. There are strong levels of interest in hearing more about Asia’s energy story. It’s quite a complex story given the diversity of economies, resources and communities in our region – but the more people hear it, the better the understanding of the Asian energy landscape will be. That goes for the wider US populace as well. One of the strongest underlying messages is quite simple: unless Asia gets access to a lot more gas over the next three decades, coal use is going to become even more entrenched in emerging economies in the region and net zero ambitions will not be realised. 

The references to LNG in the joint statement from the recent meetings between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida were quite positive. We take some encouragement from that as we continue to monitor the situation and engage with stakeholders. 

Moving on to another major gas-producing nation, how do you view the current situation in Australia?

The recent Australian Energy Market Operator report on likely gas shortages in Australia’s south-eastern states was very concerning. From my perspective, as an Australian now living in Asia, it’s quite a jarring scenario. Few countries have the energy resources that Australia does but because of a lack of investment in gas production, there is now a very real threat to the country’s basic energy security. 

Accelerated reform of Australia’s regulatory system will help address this lack of investment and ensure future projects are developed. The Australian gas industry is committed to working within a robust regulatory environment but it’s essential that associated processes and procedures are fit-for-purpose, simple to navigate and aren’t duplicated at state and federal level. It also needs to be made clear that Australian gas shouldn’t be a “one or the other” proposition that pits domestic needs against Asia’s demand. With well-planned and responsible execution of future gas projects, Australia can attend to its own energy security and also meet Asia’s growing LNG requirements. 

Do you see any similarities in the Australian and US situations around gas exports?

There are interesting comparisons and contrasts to be made. I think the positive influence of natural gas on domestic power production has become reasonably widely recognised in the US, because of the emissions reductions that have occurred over the past 15 years through switching coal out for gas. Australia hasn’t had a “Shale Revolution” and has had relatively abundant access to natural gas over a long period until more recently. Perhaps that’s allowed the importance of gas to both Australian energy security and energy transition to slip under the radar and become quite unappreciated. 

One area of similarity I have observed is that most people in both Australia and the US would be generally aware that their countries export LNG to Asia. But wider understanding of what that gas is used for, why it is needed by different nations in Asia and what the alternatives are, remains a work in progress. That’s one of the reasons why ANGEA was created – to grow that appreciation of global energy dynamics not only among key stakeholders but more broadly in the populations of gas-producing countries. 

LNG from Australia and the US is absolutely essential to plans for decarbonisation and the transition away from coal in fast-growing emerging Asia. 

What do the next few months hold in store for ANGEA?

They will continue to be busy – and they will involve engagements in a variety of countries. May and June shape as being particularly busy. ANGEA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy Alex Yelland is participating on a panel on CCS at Future Energy Asia in Bangkok in mid-May and immediately after that the ANGEA board will be meeting in Perth in parallel with the Australian Energy Producers annual conference. I will be speaking at the Japan Energy Summit and Exhibition in the first week of June, before taking part in the Association of International Energy Negotiators International Energy Summit in Bangkok. ANGEA is also very much looking forward to being a major partner of the United States Studies Centre’s flagship event in Sydney on June 19 and 20. The theme of the conference is “Economic Security In A Turbulent World”, which is very apt given the intersection of geopolitics and energy globally over the past few years.

What updates can you provide on ANGEA’s project work?

We have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline and we’ll make announcements about their progress as the year unfolds and milestones in those pieces of work are achieved.  

One of the major projects we’re undertaking is, of course, the Carbon Certification for Cross-Border Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Study in Asia Pacific. It’s becoming increasingly clear that CCS is going to be central to achieving Asia’s decarbonisation aspirations and we’re very encouraged by the strong volume of cross-border partnerships that are being established, including by ANGEA member companies. Having a central framework to guide how C02 emission reductions are accredited and certified across the region will be vital to CCS in Asia achieving its full potential – and that’s what our Study will design. Stakeholder engagement has started across target countries and we look forward to being able to make a public announcement about progress on the project in the new financial year. 

ANGEA is also aiming to undertake its first on-the-ground engagements in Malaysia and the Philippines a little later this year. These are key countries for the success of energy transition in Asia and we’re looking forward to learning how ANGEA and its member companies may be able to support governments and industries on their decarbonisation journeys. 

Paul Everingham is the inaugural CEO of the Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association (ANGEA), which works with governments, society and industry throughout Asia to build effective and integrated energy policies that meet each country’s climate objectives.