Australia’s fossil fuel industry has almost $120 billion worth of projects in the pipeline as it emerges from the pandemic.

In a closing address to Australia’s largest oil and gas industry conference, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association board chair Ian Davies has sounded a rallying cry to the industry amid change.

“Our products are essential to everyday life, our industry is crucial for the economy and the wellbeing of communities, and we are at the frontlines of the energy transition,” Mr Davies said.

“We must get it right in paying our role in this energy transformation.

“And we must get it right standing up for our industry.”

He said the sector will have a much greater firming role in the electricity grid, backing up solar and wind, by 2050, and will also provide the feedstock for delivering hydrogen “sooner and cheaper”.

Emerging carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will be vital for the sector to retain Australia’s competitive advantage in fossil fuels, he said.

Using the technology, coal and gas projects, power plants, manufacturing and heavy industries could potentially capture emissions and pump them into the ground.

But Greg Bourne, energy expert and former president of BP Australasia, says CCS is not the answer.

“Australia’s energy security is vulnerable because we rely on globally traded gas and oil with all the geopolitical risks attached,” he said.

“Carbon capture and storage will not solve this problem, it will only prolong the life of these fossil fuels in our energy system complete with their emissions.”

He said APPEA’s motivation in pushing CCS is not to decarbonise but to increase the production of gas and oil.

Responding to criticism of generous tax breaks enjoyed by the sector, the APPEA’s yearly report card showed the most recent annual contribution to governments totalled $5.35 billion in tax, rents and royalties.

The would-be federal resources minister earlier reassured the sector that gas is part of Australia’s energy future if Labor wins government on Saturday.

“I want to be clear how enthusiastic I am, and Labor is, for this industry,” federal Labor MP Madeleine King said from Dampier, Western Australia.

Ms King said one of the responsibilities Australia has as an energy economy is to extract gas and provide a pathway for other nations to get to net zero emissions by 2050. 

“Australian gas will not only help Australia to get to that objective, but also our neighbours in North Asia.”

Ms King commended APPEA for supporting net zero climate policies, “even before the government did”.

“No one can doubt, of course, the extraordinary enthusiasm of Kevin Gallagher at Santos for what Santos is seeking to achieve in carbon capture, use and storage,” she said. 

“And the same goes for every other company here at this conference that is working on CCS possibilities.”

The APPEA Statistics Card showed petroleum liquids production increased slightly in 2021 to 173 million barrels, up 2.2 per cent on the year before.

But the tally was significantly lower than the 287 million barrels in 2000.

In contrast, the gas industry is shrugging off the uncertainties of the pandemic.

Production – for domestic use and liquefied natural gas – has increased, with LNG exports in 2021 four per cent higher than in 2019.