AOG 2015 roundup: WA to play important role in gas; FIFO mental health a huge priority

Last week’s Australasian Oil and Gas (AOG) Exhibition and Conference 2015 cemented WA’s position as resources capital of Australia, while FIFO mental health took centrestage in a panel.

The conference kicked off with an opening plenary session that featured the likes of Chevron’s Richard Hinkley, Shell’s Neil Gilmour and Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.

The opening plenary session ‘New Thinking for Australian Oil & Gas’ was chaired by Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Western Australia Chief Executive Deidre Willmott.

“AOG 2014 attracted 12,000 unique visitors last year, and this year promises to be bigger and better,” Ms Scaffidi said.

She said Perth’s central position which rendered it only four hours away from the Middle Eastern hub of the energy industry as well as the fact that Perth-based businesses could liaise with European companies in the same business day were significant advantages for businesses looking to operate in the capital city.

WA Minister for Commerce Michael Mischin emphasised this strategic advantage and AOG’s important role in his keynote opening address.

“Some say Perth is the Houston of the Southern hemisphere; I prefer to think of it as the Venice of the Indian Ocean. WA’s offshore and onshore areas have attracted 62 per cent of national petroleum exploration and at a national level, WA remains the country’s foremost petroleum producer, with LNG the most valued product.

Nearly every opening plenary session speaker touched on the tough realities brought on by the plummeting oil prices, but were positive about the industry’s ability to withstand the cyclical comedown.

“I won’t speculate about how long the oil prices will be down, but the way the industry reacts as a whole will be a very important indicator,” Aurecon Industry Director – Energy Victor Young said.

As for the future outlook of the sector, Shell Vice President of Development in the Global Integrated Gas Business Neil Gilmour said natural gas has never been as poised to play as big a role in the world’s future energy mix as it is now.

“Natural gas is uniquely positioned to meet challenges of policymakers. There is an extraordinary transformation as people move from rural villages to cities, and coal is expected to meet 40 to 50 per cent of this demand in the future, although I think the cleaner burning natural gas will emerge as a real alternative,” Mr Gilmour said.

Gilmour advised natural gas operators to look for more innovative ways to manage capital and operational costs, and develop partnerships; the core of building successful long-term opportunities.

FIFO mental health panel

A fly-in fly-out (FIFO) mental health panel session at AOG 2015 explored the pre-emptive measures that should be taken to prevent instances of suicide in the resources industry.

Consulting organisational psychologist Greg Bayne hosted the session and highlighted sobering statistics, such as the fact that 14 per cent of Australians will be affected by a mental health disorder in any given 12 months.

Member for Eyre Dr Graham Jacobs said the resources industry is dealing with the cohort most vulnerable to suicide – men aged between 16 and 44.

“It is the separation and disconnect from their family and the inability of FIFO workers to participate in family occasions that exacerbates things. High compression rosters, fatigue and the stigma of declaring that one isn’t coping are all challenges as well,” Mr Jacobs said.

Apart from bullying and harassment, Mr Jacobs said FIFO workers also face the challenge of never being able to “really go home” with on-site accommodation.

He advised resources employers to always report deaths in an operation, as their inability to do so hampers the Department of Mines and Petroleum’s ability to identify causes of deaths.

Deloitte Advanced Analytics Practice Lead Partner Coert DuPlessis said Western Australia is lagging when it comes to adopting big data to understand human behaviour.

He drew attention to oft overlooked vulnerable groups in the resources industry – older residential workers living permanently onsite as well as contractors, who tend to do work that is more dangerous and are treated differently to the average employee.

Psychologist at TLC Solutions Alistair Box said a shared set of circumstances and characteristics can result in a certain ‘risk persona’.

“The thing about risk personas however is that they continually change. We must constantly reassess our workforce,” Box said. He recommended that resources employers hold financial planning workshops to help financially stressed employees, personal resilience and stress management workshops as well as support services information programs.

Box said three important things businesses must ask themselves are:

  • How well do you understand the nature of risk in your workplace?
  • Are you being strategic in your approach to maximise impact and get resources to those who need them?
  • Are your strategies multi-dimensional?

Rounding up the panel was Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) of Western Australia Deputy Chief Executive Nicole Roocke, who said something the resources industry has struggled with is coming up with proactive, predictive measures to tackle mental health.

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