LEADING PNG petroleum company Oil Search Limited believes that carefully planned and managed sustainability programmes can go a long way to ensuring a good working relationship between landowners, government and oil and gas project operators.

Commenting on the recent “peaceful” protests in the Hides area, Oil Search managing director Peter Botten said the company’s efforts to build and maintain relationships with the people living in its areas of activity are extremely important.

“We believe that our sustainable development programmes, delivered both directly by Oil Search and through the Oil Search Foundation, are key to helping maintain a stable operating environment, while improving development outcomes for the people of PNG,” Mr Botten said.

“Oil Search has formed strong relationships with government, communities and a range of other public and private organisations in PNG through these programmes, which are essential for successful oil and gas operations.

“In 2015, a new five-year strategy was developed for the Oil Search Foundation, which has been operating as a not-for-profit organisation, supported by Oil Search and other donor agencies, since 2011. Its mandate was expanded, with two new development streams – Leadership and Education and Women’s Protection and Empowerment – added to run alongside the Foundation’s health programmes.

“Recently, we announced that the Oil Search Board has approved a grant to the Foundation of US$56 million (K185 million) over five years, starting in 2016. Our continued financial commitment highlights both the importance of the Foundation’s work to local communities in PNG and our view that conducting business in a socially responsible manner is a strategic and moral imperative.”

The good relationships between the companies operating in the Southern Highlands and landowners was demonstrated when the recent “peaceful” protests at Hides where Landowners sought dialogue with the Government regarding progressing land title and benefits distribution issues was concluded with minimal effect on the production from the Hides field.

While the Hides operator curtailed production from the two Hides wells as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of those gathered near one of the producing wellpads Hides, only a temporary minor impact on daily production occurred.

Following constructive dialogue between the landowner leaders and government representatives, an agreement was signed which allowed some benefits to be paid and a way forward agreed to address remaining benefits and land ownership issues. The wells were fully restored very quickly and our production for the full year remains within the recently upgraded guidance range of 28 to 30 mmboe.