Ex-Woodside exec gets guernsey for new team
New man: David Kirk, left, with Cameron Manifold. Picture: John Mokrzycki.

David Kirk wants to make it clear he is not the former All Blacks captain.

Although a rugby nut, the affable Irishman - most recently Woodside's development manager for the Pluto LNG project - has been poached to head Perth-based oil and gas engineering consultancy AWT International.

"Unfortunately, I'm not related," he told _WestBusiness _ yesterday.

"Although I did live in New Zealand once, but that was before the World Cup."

A bit like unheralded Ireland in last year's tournament, when it trumped the Wallabies, Mr Kirk has joined an outfit that has quietly become a $30-million-a-year global business since being founded by outgoing chief executive Cameron Manifold and two colleagues in 1996.

Backed by the private equity arm of NSW State Super, the unlisted AWT boasts offices in Scotland and a base in Malaysia, and specialises in both onshore and offshore well head design and construction.

Mr Manifold will retain his stake in the company, a seat on the board, and remain a strategic adviser from October 1.

Mr Manifold said AWT's 2009 acquisition of MBA Petroleum Consultants had positioned the group to take advantage of Australia's "shale gas revolution", and that Mr Kirk's appointment was the natural evolution as part of that push.

Despite Australia's high-cost environment, Mr Manifold said the local industry could still flourish.

"We haven't got the right technology being applied to the right assets," he said.

"We have a very underdeveloped onshore gas services sector, and until such time as we transition to new technology, equipment and new approaches, we are going to struggle to make those breakthroughs, and that is where we see ourselves being able to help."

AWT advises unconventional gas players such as Buru Energy and New Standard Energy.

Mr Kirk, himself no stranger to high costs on Woodside's $15 billion Pluto project, said wages were a big part of the issue.

"Unfortunately high costs drive work offshore, so somewhere we have to get the balance right between ensuring people are well paid, but also being competitive."

He said environmental concerns about shale gas had been overplayed, given techniques such as fraccing had been used in Australia for decades under rigorous regulatory regimes.

We haven't got the right technology being applied to the right assets. "Cameron Manifold

The West Australian

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