New opportunities for gas industry in 2016

While the “once in a generation” Australian oil and gas construction boom has passed its peak, the LNG sector still provides a major opportunity for Australian companies, according to a leading engineering specialist.

Francis Norman, the Immediate Past President of Engineers Australia’s WA Division and a keynote speaker at the Australasian Oil & Gas Exhibition & Conference (AOG) 2016 Conference, says while many of the major LNG projects are now transitioning from a construction to an operational phase, there are many new opportunities for Australian skills to be at the forefront.

“There will be a great need for operations and maintenance personnel at both the engineering and trades levels to plan and undertake shut down work, both onsite and in design and supply offices as each of the new facilities come on line,” Mr Norman said.

“Opportunities for individuals will span from operations and maintenance roles, as well as technical and logistics support through sub-contracting businesses and organisations. Individuals need to have the appropriate skills required for whichever role they are seeking and may also need to be prepared to be flexible with work rosters, as many of these projects will require irregular hours,” he said.

Mr Norman, who will presenting in the “Service & Supply Opportunities in LNG Projects and Operations” stream at the AOG Conference, said that the game-changing FLNG developments like Prelude also offered many new opportunities.

“For companies, the way to be involved in the opportunities associated with FLNG will be to provide services to support the operations of new facilities at a cost and quality level that is competitive, whilst demonstrating a safety record that matches that of the operators. Most Australian businesses already have the necessary safety record and skill set needed; the challenge is for them to understand how best to access the overall FLNG supply chain,” he said.

Mr Norman, who was part of the team that wrote the Engineers Australia report Our FLNG Future Engineering Opportunities and Challenges says Australia has a capability to be a world leader in providing support to the burgeoning FLNG sector.

“One of the findings of our research is that Australia has the skills and capability to pursue a world leading position in the support of the FLNG sector. Western Australia in particular has a long history of both offshore production from fixed and floating facilities, along with over 25 years of LNG experience. This depth gives the region a strong starting position to pursue a position of global leadership,” he said.

However, Mr Norman said that Australia should not take this opportunity for granted.

“Our report found the industry needs to build a strong, collaborative culture between organisations, to identify the unique strengths held here in Australia, and to identify the global gaps in knowledge, skills and experience so we can focus on filling them. This will need a robust relationship between our academic institutions, operators and the broader support industry.”

Mr Norman said there are a number of opportunities for government and industry to work in collaboration to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of the LNG business.

“Industry needs to take the time to understand the opportunities presented by the huge growth in the LNG industry, and how local support networks and individual businesses need to position themselves, through relationships and strategy, to best support the industry. The better they can demonstrate this support, the more likely it is they will get the opportunities to be involved.

“There is always a role for government in helping Australian businesses access emerging and growing markets. This may involve encouraging stronger relationships between research institutions and industry and ensuring the vocational and tertiary sectors continue to provide appropriate training for all types of roles needed to support the industry. Providing access to support infrastructure in the best geographic locations will also go a long way to ensuring Australia maximises it’s FLNG opportunities, as would maintaining an appropriate level of taxation to allow Australian businesses to compete on an even playing field.

“Australian government could also help by supporting the export of Australian LNG expertise to other locations, taking the knowledge accumulated during the expansion of the industry in Australia and selling it to jurisdictions such as Canada where the next expansions are likely to take place,” he said.

He also noted that the local engineering sector must ensure that it retains the skills and personnel to make the most of the opportunities the LNG business may bring.

“With the expansion boom now over, future opportunities in the resources sector are almost all in the areas of operations support and maintenance. It is critically important that Australia’s engineers recognise this change in the landscape and reconfigure their skill sets to best address this.”

Enter your details to subscribe to the free fortnightly Gas Today e-newsletter

Thank you for signing up for the Gas Today Online Update.