The South Pacific region is one of the largest sources of LNG in the world but Australia will need to rely on labour from elsewhere to cope with demand.
22 August 2012
Fresh opportunity for skilled workers in Australia LNG industry
Australia is set to become one of the largest producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, if it can find and maintain enough skilled workers to man the projects.
There are seven large-scale LNG projects currently being constructed in Australia and as the world moves away from coal as its largest source of electricity generation, the more efficient and abundant LNG is set to become one of the largest contributors to the world's energy supply.
Qatar is currently the largest exporter of LNG in the world but with its improving infrastructure and expanding mining and construction industries, Australia is in prime position to dominate the industry in years to come.
Australia has benefitted greatly in recent years from its mining and construction booms but has been consistently hindered by its lack of manpower. As a result, several mining conglomerates have turned to importing foreign skilled labour to make up numbers; just half of all engineers on mining projects in Australia are locally born.
A report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit predicted Australia's rise to the forefront of the LNG industry but the report's author, Peter Kiernan, warned that Australia would have to find ways to deal with unavoidable issues, particularly the location of the majority of Australia's natural resources.
"Australia could even displace Qatar as the number one LNG exporter by 2020, at the very least, Australia will surpass major LNG exporters such as Indonesia and Malaysia in terms of total liquefaction [production] capacity," read the report.
"Many of the LNG fields, especially those sited in Western Australia, are in locations so remote that accommodation and facilities for the employees have to actually be built from scratch," said Mr Kiernan.
"For the offshore LNG projects, the companies have to spend massive amounts on transporting their employees onto and off the production platforms."
The prospect of understaffing leading to hindered progress is not new and the Australian government have already taken steps to allow Australian immigration to ease the worsening shortages; mining magnate Gina Rinehart was granted the first Enterprise Migration Agreement earlier this year which allowed her to bring in over 1,700 foreign workers to augment the workforce on her multi-billion dollar Roy Hills iron ore project.
And if predictions are true, similar agreements will be needed to ensure the progress of the burgeoning LNG industry.
A presentation made by Keith Spence of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency last month said that the 200 process operators employed on current LNG projects will need to be boosted to over 1,500 by 2017.
Any further growth in the LNG industry is likely to trigger movement between mining industries in Australia but with another report from GE Australia claiming the entire country is short 1,700 engineers and over 3,000 geoscientists, Australia is going to have to look to foreign shores to obtain the manpower it needs.
Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says potential migrants stand to benefit from opportunities within the new LNG industry:
"There are excellent options for people with experience in LNG to migrate to Australia on a range of industres and it's exciting to see that these types of new projects open up further opportunities for those within the civil engineering and construction industries to build the supporting infrastructure."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.