First Gas’ role as a forward-thinking, collaborative, and community-minded leader in the energy sector has been recognised with the company named as a finalist in three categories at the 2019 Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards.

The annual awards honour excellence and achievement across the sector, with some of the biggest producers, distributors and retailers of energy in New Zealand entering their projects and people to be assessed by an expert panel of independent judges.

Taranaki-based gas company First Gas, which has only been in existence since 2016, entered the awards for the first time.

First Gas has been selected as a finalist for:

  • Network Initiative of the Year – Pariroa gas pipeline bypass project
  • Community Initiative of the Year – Community collaboration for the Pariroa gas pipeline bypass project

During 2018, a crease was discovered in the Māui gas transmission pipeline beneath farmland at White Cliffs (or Pariroa), North Taranaki. The defect threatened the reliability and security of gas supply to the entire upper North Island. Instead of using its powers under regulation to cut the pipe and fix the defect, First Gas took a different, more holistic approach – to work collaboratively with stakeholders on an option that would cause as little disruption to them as possible. This approach not only secured the gas supply through a successful pipeline bypass project, but paved the way for positive future stakeholder-industry engagement.

  • Young Energy Professional of the Year – Ben Gerritsen

Although only 39, Ben Gerritsen has played a pivotal role in shaping New Zealand’s energy sector. As First Gas Group General Manager Commercial and Regulation, Gerritsen used his wide energy sector knowledge, and sound collaborative leadership skills in the development, approval and implementation of a single gas transmission agreement following First Gas’ acquisitions of the Māui and Vector pipelines. This involved bringing together major energy stakeholders and customers to form agreement for access to First Gas’ pipeline system and to transport gas. Gerritsen also played a leading role in First Gas’ acquisitions of LPG business Rockgas and the Ahuroa gas storage facility.

First Gas Chief Executive Paul Goodeve said he was thrilled and honoured the company had been recognised by the industry.

“We’re a young company in New Zealand, so it’s fantastic to see we are on the right track and making a valuable contribution to the energy sector and the community,” Mr Goodeve said.

“We have a set of values that focuses on working together, having integrity, enabling growth and empowerment, and having respect for each other and the customers and communities we work with, so making the finals of these awards is great acknowledgement that we are working to those values.”

Mr Goodeve said First Gas staff were the key to the company’s success.

“We have great staff who have done wonderful work across a wide range of projects and initiatives, including the Pariroa bypass project. I am very pleased to see Ben recognised for his hard work in bringing the gas sector together to make ground-breaking regulatory change.

“We’re really looking forward to supporting the finalists at the awards evening.”

The awards are organised by Freeman Media, with general manager Neil Wembridge commenting the judges were impressed with the quality of projects put forward and the innovation across disciplines in the sector.

He said a particular feature was the way in which firms were embedding excellence into their business as usual operations.

“The judges recognise that isn’t easy to do, and requires considerable thought and dedication,” Wembridge said.

He said the quality of entries this year was such that making the final stage was a considerable achievement in itself.

An audience of about 650 is expected to attend the 2019 Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards dinner at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland on 21 August.