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Taking the pulse of Australian gas from an integrated services perspective

Interview with Fyfe’s General Manager - Energy & Resources Central and Western Australia, Andrew Warner, for the Australian Domestic Gas Outlook Conference (ADGO) 2022.

How does Fyfe’s approach differ from your peers in the gas sector? Why are your priorities different?

Fyfe’s approach differs in a few different ways.

Firstly, we’re very invested in providing community support, for example, we have offices in Alice Springs, Ballera, Chinchilla, Lower Hunter, Moomba, Narrabri, Roma, Port Augusta, Upper Hunter – areas where our clients’ projects are happening.

Secondly, we provide integrated services. We’re not just pipeline and infrastructure experts, or environmental scientists, or surveyors. Fyfe is all of those things (and more) in one firm, which helps us to provide seamless services and better value to our clients. Our broader portfolio really helps us to add value to a project from initial survey and environmental assessment to providing engineering design of the final product.

And thirdly, we frequently collaborate with people and organisations in the industry to further the industry. Fyfe does that through sponsoring events such as ADGO 2022, we’re involved in both the SA and QLD NERA hydrogen clusters, and we’re supporting new research into hydrogen technologies through the Future Fuels CRC and in collaboration with universities.

You’re involved in the SA & QLD H2H clusters. How soon do you see a commercial-scale hydrogen supply chain emerging?

It’s contingent on a few factors. To answer that question we’ve got to consider future infrastructure requirements alongside what we already have, political factors, and whether hydrogen as an export will further drive domestic hydrogen.

The first step is getting the basic infrastructure and the transportation infrastructure in place to enable a supply chain. To a certain extent, we already have that in existing natural gas infrastructure and mature technologies.

Australia also has existing trade agreements, viable carbon sequestration sites, and experience with large-scale energy projects, so we’re well placed in that regard.

The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project is making inroads. Just a few weeks ago we saw the Suiso Frontier carrier leave the Port of Hastings for Japan loaded with liquified hydrogen, which proves that this fuel can be transported successfully.

Meanwhile, Fortescue recently announced its commitment to supply Germany with 100,000 tonnes of green hydrogen from 2024, just two years from now. Overall, there’s definite movement on viable hydrogen supply chains happening now.

And on the domestic front, we’ve got the blending trials where a certain amount of hydrogen is added to natural gas and delivered via existing infrastructure.

There is significant financial investment, both public and private, and at the moment, there are more than 50 hydrogen pilots and projects in the works, some of which are already operating.

If you could imagine the gas sector in 5 to 10 years, do you think it will have changed beyond recognition or will it be very much the same as it is today?

I think that it will remain strong as energy demands in Australia and around the world increase. Natural Gas is still important and will continue to be so for some time. We have recently seen and may continue to see in Europe what can happen when there are tight natural gas inventories, decreasing domestic production, and limited external supplies — resulting in shortages impacting heating and cooking and extortionate winter bills for end consumers, an untenable outcome for many.

Overall, it won’t be markedly different, but we will see certain changes.

For one, we will also see a greater demand for renewable energy sources and green options such as hydrogen. The gas industry is a key part of a move towards sustainability. It has the infrastructure and expertise to help reduce emissions by supporting the already advancing hydrogen industry, while still playing a critical role in delivering energy.

And of course, we will see the local electrical markets continue to be strongly linked to gas (methane or hydrogen) and signalling demand on the gas networks. Until large-scale storage solutions are in place to support supply / demand shortfalls, gas remains the preferred dispatchable power source to ensure continuous supply of energy on demand.

For the immediate future, what are Fyfe’s priorities?

Fyfe is committed to continuing to deliver projects for our gas sector clients as we always have. And we will continue to do so during the transition to a higher percentage of renewable energy use.

Another priority for us is supporting the communities where we operate. Our people live and work in many of the regions where our long-term projects are based, so supporting the local community through procurement, partnerships and sponsorships is always high on our agenda. Landholder liaison is important and building strong community relationships means we’re able to meet business objectives while operating with local benefits.

At the same time, we’re supporting our own community of people at Fyfe with training and upskilling opportunities with new software and technologies, including opportunities to work on hydrogen projects.

Fyfe is also keeping a close eye on emerging carbon abatement and green fuel technologies. We’re already supporting clients in Australia with carbon storage solutions and helping these companies address the challenges of meeting their net zero goals, and we’re investigating and researching overseas developments in these areas. Fyfe is committed to supporting projects that reduce carbon emissions.

Get in touch to speak to Andrew about how Fyfe can support your project.