OPINION: Australia's upstream oil and gas industry faced some existential questions at its annual conference last week, many centred on development prospects for its fossil fuel resources in a world committed to decarbonisation.

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There was hint of rhetoric to some of the questions posed, as the industry rolled out its own responses to the energy transition challenges.

The starting point was industry-wide support for reaching net-zero emission targets by 2050 while continuing as a huge exporter of natural gas.

An optimistic Australian take on decarbonisation was reinforced by a positive view of what technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen production can achieve when applied to natural gas.

Apparently detached from some of the criticism of CCS facing counterparts in Norway and the UK, Australia's oil and gas industry sees an opportunity to turn the country into a carbon storage and hydrogen-exporting superpower.

The industry is convinced that it has the support of a large majority of Australians in continuing to export liquefied natural gas to Asia, and is renewing its efforts to improve its public image.

But it cannot ignore the challenges of environmentalists, despite suggestions by the industry body Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) that much of the green movement is acting in bad faith when it demonises the oil industry.

APPEA underlined its pledge to "continue to build trust and show Australians the good we are doing and how we are driving change".

Perhaps the next oil-related boom will be in the public relations sector.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)