Santos GLNG workers preparing to feed first gas into the Santos GLNG pipeline.
Santos GLNG workers preparing to feed first gas into the Santos GLNG pipeline.

Santos chief backs once-controversial national interest test

SANTOS' chief executive wants to take a fresh look at a national interest test for new LNG projects, despite the idea being slammed by the industry three years ago.

Declaring the industry and his company was in a "much healthier place" now compared to 2015 due to the rise in the oil price, Kevin Gallagher said during a gas conference this week it was time for the industry to unite to find a long-term solution for its challenges.

Mr Gallagher said after famously spending $10,000 per minute for seven years in bringing to reality its GLNG venture at Curtis Island, the company is beginning to see a return on its $25b investment.

Now with an oil price at $70, Mr Gallagher said Santos' portfolio is cash-flow positive and has put the "life threatening" price lows in the past.

Mr Gallagher recommended new LNG projects should face national interest tests, despite the idea being slammed by the gas industry in 2015.

The Australian Labor Party announced the National Interest Test for Gas Exports ahead of the 2015 federal election, which would mean any new LNG project, including a seventh train at Curtis Island, would need to pass a test.

"The national interest test was essentially a national cost-benefit analysis of the merits of expanding LNG capacity," Mr Gallagher said.

"As an industry, we know we can be extremely proud of the benefits the LNG industry has brought to Australians through jobs, opportunities and community investments.

"If we refuse to engage in a discussion about national interest tests and domestic gas reservation policies, we might find ourselves squabbling over the spoils of defeat.

"We would have nothing to fear from an independent assessment of the national costs and benefits of an LNG expansion that would build public confidence in our industry."

Mr Gallagher said it was important the industry gave back to its communities and the domestic market, and it was time the industry shifted its focus from its cost base to public trust and confidence which "is at an all-time low".