Mick McWalter: A life in PNG (Page 1 of 8) By Brian Wickins, 20 Jun 2013 Having spent much of his working life in Papua New Guinea (PNG), petroleum geologist Michael McWalter has seen the emerging development of the petroleum industry within PNG, and has come to call the country his home.

McWalter joined the PNG Geological Survey Petroleum Resources Assessment Group in 1987, just after PNG had made its first commercial oil discovery at the Iagifu-2-X well.

By 1990, he had been promoted to Chief Petroleum Geologist, with a role that was very much involved in technical and operational review, the technical aspects of licensing, and the negotiations of licences and agreements.

Shortly after, the PNG Department of Minerals and Energy became the Department of Mining and Petroleum with two large integrated divisions: one covering mining, and one covering petroleum activities – the Petroleum Division, of which, he became its first Director. He was responsible for the geological assessments, technical policy and the management of all the legal, economic, community and other petroleum affairs of the PNG Government in the new integrated Petroleum Division.

He placed great emphasis on localisation, and many young PNG graduates were recruited and a large cadre of local technocrats were developed and trained, with more than 33 members of the staff subsequently being put through Masters' degree programmes.

McWalter left his position as Director in 1997, and moved into an advisory and mentor role with the Department. when it made another transition and became the Department of Petroleum and Energy. Essentially, McWalter built the Division up, starting way back in 1987, when it was the Petroleum Resources Assessment Group to its acme of strength some 20 years later.

“The Department went from strengthening and capacity building, to assisting the industry with its sector investment for many years, and naturally this is now bearing fruit, with some US$19 B being spent on the development of the ExxonMobil-led LNG project,” he said.

“This is the result of many years of hard work of many people. It is not the temporal result of the current administration. It is the result of the work of successive governments, successive ministers and many dedicated public servants.