Western Australia's need for workers in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector is set to increase by the thousands, as several world-scale liquefied natural gas projects in the state move from the construction phase into the operation phase over the next five years.
Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) spotlighted the Gorgon LNG and Wheatstone LNG developments as examples in its 2011/12 Mineral and Petroleum Statistics Digest published Tuesday.
DMP noted in its report: "These projects are generating thousands of employment opportunities during construction. As [they progress] towards operation over the next five years, the LNG operator workforce is expected to rise rapidly."
DMP forecasted that Western Australia's LNG industry will continue to expand moving into this decade, underpinned by Asia's growing demand for cleaner burning fuels.
In 2011/12, the average number of petroleum employees working onshore and offshore Western Australia reached 8,705 persons, DMP said in its report. Around 5,820 employees are located in the state's offshore waters and on LNG processing facilities.
DMP's views are in line with the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) opinion. In a statement published in December last year, APPEA said that the enormous construction effort in Australia's petroleum sector will create more than 100,000 jobs in the next few years. It will be followed by a production phase that will create tens of thousands of jobs in the upstream oil and gas support industries.
Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) had last year revealed statistics which reaffirms both DMP's and APPEA's assessments. In a technology conference which took place in July last year, AWPA said that Western Australia is facing a critical shortage of LNG and coal seam gas process operators. In what is seen as a conservative estimate, the agency remarked that Western Australia will have to beef up the state's number of LNG process operators to 1,500 by 2017/18. In 2012, 180 to 200 LNG process operators were employed in Western Australia.
Western Australia's mineral and petroleum industry recorded a total sales figure of $112 billion (AUD 106 billion), up 4 percent year-on-year. The petroleum sector – which includes oil, condensate, LNG, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas – accounted for $25 billion ($23.8 billion) of sales. LNG contributed $10.6 billion (AUD 10 billion) to the sector's sales figure.
The Gorgon Project, which comprises of three LNG production trains with a combined production capacity of 15.6 million metric tonnes per annum (mtpa), is slated to produce its first LNG cargo in 2014.
The Wheatstone Project, which consists of a two-train facility capable of producing 8.9 mtpa of LNG, is scheduled to produce first gas in 2016. The project will eventually be expanded to a five-LNG processing train facility, with final production capacity planned for 25 mtpa. Both of the projects are operated by Chevron.
Other closely-watched projects include Shell's flagship Prelude floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) project and the Inpex-operated Ichthys LNG Project. The two projects are scheduled to start operations in 2017. The Ichthys LNG Project is expected to employ 300 workers on an ongoing basis.
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