Perth: Energy hub at the End of the World
Rome wasn’t build in a day, neither was Houston. In little over a decade, however, Perth has successfully, albeit rather abruptly, transformed itself into a thriving melting pot of hydrocarbons expertise.
Today West Australia’s capital city boasts over 85,000-industry professionals spread across some 700 odd petroleum-focused equipment, technology and services companies. Moreover, far from merely relying on the wealth of natural resources laden throughout the region’s prolific basins, the local government has been busily investing in state-of-the-art technologies and niche industry segments that further distinguish the city from other international oil and gas hubs and foster a mutual growth perspective geared towards projecting Australian LNG and FLNG prowess abroad.
Nor should West Australia’s role in real value creation be downplayed. “As befitting of a region where resources underpin the economy, we boast not only an incredibly sophisticated indigenous supply chain, but also huge wherewithal to innovate… to the point where we now possess the capacity to support first-in-kind projects for LNG, floating LNG, carbon capture and storage,” observes Malcolm Roberts, CEO of APPEA. Already numerous examples abound of locally derived and validated gas technologies and know-how being exported worldwide. Greg Vesey, CEO of LNG Limited (LNGL), for instance recounts how he has managed to grow his company into a pioneering global player in LNG infrastructure investment delivering cutting-edge Optimized Single Mixed Refrigerant (OSMR®) liquefaction process technology to mid-scale LNG projects around the globe.
“We’re talking about a country that has built it’s innovation ‘off the sheep’s back,’ so to speak, meaning that innovation is truly initiated and inspired by direct market trends and affiliated needs,” expounds Todd Martin, general manager of Ixom. He explains how his “renowned Pure MEG hydrate inhibitor, was a completely in-house innovation, initially forged in response to Chevron’s hydrates challenges encountered on the Gorgon project before being scaled up and applied to Wheatstone project as well.”
“For anyone seeking to invest in oil and gas, Perth is the obvious place to be,” proclaims the honorable Bill Marmion, Western Australia Minister for Finance, Mines and Petroleum. “We’re busy cultivating a global investment, thought leadership and technology hub, delivering high-skilled job creation and bountiful growth opportunities within the context of a face-to-face business culture underpinned by integrity, cooperation and goodwill.”
The publicly owned ‘Australian Marine Complex and its Common-User Facility’s’ waterfront and heavy load-out capability fully embodies the Western-Australian avant-garde streak and willingness to embrace fresh thinking. With its attentiveness to enlightened collaboration, cost-efficiency and risk sharing, the complex has already attracted the active participation of iconic entities such as FMC Technology and OneSubsea. “Our Common User Facility (CUF) is absolutely unique in its operating model and offers an unparalleled degree of affordable access to high capability infrastructure with companies only paying for usage as and when they require the facility. This model enables even less capitalized companies to hold their own within highly competitive international markets,” reveals Jonathan Smith, general manager of AMC Management.
While it already contributed more than USD 2.4 billion of projects since 2003 – many of which are unlikely to have materialized without this facility, AMC’s ecosystem is also stimulated by the large number of its clients having participated in the construction of two of the most complex Australian LNG projects: Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone. Primarily focused on oil and gas players, this unique facility now strives to bolster a valuable cross-sector interplay by coopting companies from other cutting-edge industries. “Even if the final use may differ from one industry to another, quality standards are, for instance, similarly applied across the oil and gas subsea segment and the submarine and shipbuilding industries,” notes Smith. “We believe that, in the future, the most high performance companies will be adopting a broader business approach that entails finding solutions and closing strategic partnerships beyond the boundaries of their own narrow industry…our collaborative approach is already pioneering and supporting this increasing trend,” he affirms.
Indeed, according to Kym Bills, CEO of the Western Australian Energy Research Alliance (WA:ERA), one of the defining characteristics that marks Perth out from other oil and gas cities is it’s status as “a truly diversified resource capital where knowledge, learning and expertise from the worlds of minerals, mining and hydrocarbons can intersect and collide.” Complementary to the promotion of common use, shared infrastructure, Bills is keen to mainstream the practice of joined-up action when it comes to conducting research. “One of our overriding goals is to grow pre-competitive areas where research costs can be shared and expertise pooled,” he elaborates.
This collaborative approach takes on a crucial importance as Perth truly emerges as a laboratory for pioneering gas and marine technologies, such as Floating-LNG (FLNG), propelled by Shell’s flagship Prelude project in the region. “Significant technology is imbedded within [Western-Australian] projects. Shell’s Prelude FLNG facility is an absolute world’s first: a massive floating facility with a complex and integrated operation,” underscores Bernadette Cullinane, Asia Pacific Energy Lead at Accenture. “Together with the operator, we believe that we can build up Western Australia’s capacity to be the world class center in FLNG knowledge,” agrees John O’Hare, general manager of marine, defense, oil and gas at the Western Australia Department of Commerce. “We are mobilizing the West Australian educational structures to enable the up-scaling Australian oil and gas professionals so that they possess skills that are internationally transferrable so in turn Perth can encompass centers of knowledge where companies can go to solve not just Australian problems, but problems that may be faced in other fields and jurisdictions. Aberdeen and Stavanger have both proven to be excellent examples of this expertise export model, and this is very much a pathway we seek to emulate here,” he confides.