Coleman not a coal man

Peter Klinger, Paris

Woodside Petroleum managing director Peter Coleman says the time has come for his industry to talk up gas as more than merely a transition fuel but a far cleaner and better alternative to coal.

In an attack on the coal industry that will not please Australia's biggest producers including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, Mr Coleman said gas did not rely on government subsidies and produced only half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal.

"While coal is at base level cheaper than gas, the full life cycle costs of coal versus natural gas are much greater, and something we need to address," Mr Coleman told the World Gas Conference 2015.

"Our industry has historically been too timid to aggressively address the short comings of coal, but now is the time to stand up and we need to stand united. We the gas sector must do more to highlights the benefits of gas over the product of our competitors.

"Give me a break. Who coined clean coal? And why did we let that happen.

"If we limit the conversation to one based on price, we fail our shareholders and we fail those who seek a reliable source of power while hoping to resolve issues associated with air quality and climate change.

"And remember, air quality is not a conversation we have in Perth but is a conversation our friends in China have each and every day."

Mr Coleman's call to arms was backed earlier by Isabelle Kocher, the deputy chief executive of French giant Engie (the rebranded GDF Suez), who told the conference gas was not a transition fuel but would be a key component of the long-term integrated energy make-up, which would include renewables.

Ms Kocher said it was incumbent on the gas industry to expand its markets, including into transport, and urged delegates to "think solutions before you think molecules".

Total upstream president Yves Louis Darricarrere said coal was the fuel for 40 per cent of global power generation compared with 23 per cent for gas, and he expected the "gap will narrow" substantially over the next 15 years.

The reporter is attending WGC as a guest of the organisers of LNG18.