LNG Builders Plan Life After $170B Boom in Australia

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s $170 billion liquefied natural gas construction boom is winding down, and the hunt for new work is picking up.

As plants owned by companies including ConocoPhillips and Chevron Corp. prepare to start production, workers and engineering firms that helped build them, including San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., are looking for new contracts. That’s proving tough at a time when commodity prices are putting future energy and mining developments in doubt.

The decline in investment highlights the challenge facing resources-driven economies from Brazil to Russia that are adjusting to the end of a decade-long bonanza. Australia has seen a “dramatic collapse” in engineering activity as gas-export plants finish, according to consultant Deloitte Access Economics.

“That’s the trend I’m seeing, guys ringing me up and saying ‘there’s nothing happening in Australia for the foreseeable future, is there anything else going on?’” said Tom Michael, a consultant at recruiting specialist EarthStream Global in Singapore. Some managers are moving to the Philippines and China to help manufacture parts for the Yamal LNG project in the Russian Arctic, he said.

‘Anxiously Awaiting’

Australia, which rode a natural resources wave to a record 25 years of growth, is now facing downward pressure on prices for its commodity exports and counting on other sectors to cushion the blow.

The expected start this month of a A$24.7 billion ($18 billion) project led by ConocoPhillips and Origin Energy Ltd. is a sign LNG construction on the east coast is nearing an end. It’s the last of the three projects on Curtis Island, near the port town of Gladstone, where BG Group Plc and Santos Ltd. are already producing the fuel. 

Contractors are shifting focus. Bechtel, the company that built $60 billion of LNG plants on the island, said it will bid for work on infrastructure projects in the country, targeting several billion dollars worth of planned rail lines, highways, tunnels, ports and airport expansions. 


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