A ‘transformational’ year for SA-based Beach Energy

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By Melissa Keogh

South Australian-based Beach Energy has more than doubled its workforce across Australia in the past year, with the company also expecting its biggest investment year on record in 2019/20.

The oil and gas producer has set a record capital expenditure budget of $460-$540 million, reflective of opportunities it expects to flow on from a recent $1.6 billion acquisition of Origin Energy subsidiary, Lattice Energy.

With Beach Energy releasing its FY full report last week, CEO Matt Kay tells Brand SA News the past 12 months have been “transformational” as the company increased its footprint from only the Cooper Basin to five basins across Australia and New Zealand.

“We’ve had a significant increase in the last year in terms of our employees, about 12 months ago we had less than 200 employees and they were all in SA,” he says.

“We now have around 500 (across Australia) and in SA we have about 250.

“We’ve brought 30 new people into Adelaide in the last three months and we probably have another 30 new people coming in the next three months.”

Beach Energy’s head office is in Glenside south east of Adelaide’s CBD, while the company’s main operating site is the Cooper Basin, in the state’s far north.

The Cooper Basin in the state’s far north, and extending interstate is Beach Energy’s core operation.

The Cooper Basin and overlying Eromanga Basin make up the country’s biggest onshore oil and gas province, extending over northern SA, NT, Queensland and NSW.

“The Cooper Basin has been going for a very long time, since the 1960s, but it has a new lease of life in the last couple of years,” Matt says.

“We’ve been more efficient as operators in the Cooper, we’ve got our costs down so we’re now making some genuine money, which is why we are reinvesting.”

Beach Energy also has plans to expand its gas discovery in the state’s South East with assistance from the SA Government’s PACE Gas grant program.

While it has commenced drilling of conventional gas well Haselgrove-3, the company is also planning to drill a new appraisal well, Haselgrove-4, about 7km south of Penola.

Haselgrove-4 will be drilled in conjunction with an earlier announced exploration well, Dombey-1, 20km from Penola, with both activities expected to commence by early 2019.

Designs are also underway for an upgrade of the existing Katnook gas processing facility, with the Federal Government granting $6m from the Gas Acceleration Program towards the project.

Beach’s drilling operations at Haselgrove-3, the company’s well near Penola in the South East.

While the new processing facility will provide “much needed processing capacity”, Beach Energy has a strong focus on the local community and ensuring the company remains transparent about its plans.

The amount of jobs set to flow in the region because of the new projects is yet to be determined, but Matt says the company last year contributed $1.4 million to the local economy through its activities, giving an indication of the benefits.

Beach Energy was founded in Adelaide in the 1960s by geologist and conservationist Dr Reg Sprigg before being relocated to Melbourne and Sydney in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

After experiencing highs and lows, the company formerly known as Beach Petroleum, was brought back home to SA.

Matt says a clear decision was made following the Lattice acquisition to keep Beach Energy here.

“One of the advantages of being based in SA is we can keep our cost structures relatively low (and) we already have all the expertise we need here, we just need to supplement that, that’s why we’ve been growing our staff numbers,” he says.

“We have the right support from the State and Federal governments, and we can keep growing in this state.”

Beach Energy CEO Matt Kay. Photo by James Knowler / @jkcrewphotos

While Matt was born and raised in SA, his career has taken him to Perth, Dubai and Sydney, in addition to stints in the Middle East, Africa and through Asia.

Spending more than a decade at Woodside Energy and more recently Oil Search, he returned to SA to take on the role at Beach in 2016.

He says the oil and gas sector is currently in “growth mode” and that opportunities do exist for SA’s next generation of workers to pursue long-term careers in the industry.

“There are many opportunities in the sector in all disciplines, from finance, legal and community, environmental, geology, engineering, the whole spectrum,” he says.

“It’s certainly not (just about) people being out in the field and covered in dirt and dust. There is a lot of development in high technology, knowledge and capability in the industry.”

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