We need more floating LNG jobs in Australia – what’s next?
Floating LNG, or FLNG as it is commonly known, is rapidly creating new employment opportunities over land based LNG facilities. Australia has pioneered the industry of freezing pure methane to make liquid natural gas (LNG) for the overseas market.
Now Australia has to pull its socks up and embrace floating LNG (FLNG) to create new jobs of the future and contribute to the innovation that comes with maritime engineering excellence.
FLNG is much more cost effective to build than conventional land-based plants and can be faster to build too. Floating LNG technology could pave the way for a new industry. Take Shell`s Prelude project off Western Australia`s north west coast. It is the world`s largest floating platform and provides Australia with a golden opportunity to embrace innovation to drive jobs and productivity in the LNG industry.
The growth of FLNG
For the first time in 15 years, Australia does not have any onshore LNG plant proposals in the pipeline. The only new LNG projects in the feasibility stage are FLNG.
Japan and South Korea are the world`s largest customers for LNG, and most of the LNG that will be produced on Curtis Island, off the coast of Gladstone, Qld, will find it way over to the Asian markets who are relying more and more on LNG.
However, there is also the threat from Russia as it forges ahead with pipeline gas deals with China, which could mean Russia piping millions of tonnes of cheap natural gas to China into the future. This is something Australia must be wary of in order to dominate it’s share of global gas markets. This means keeping the affordability of LNG well within the reach of Asian nations for many years to come.
Management of overseas threats to Australian LNG can reduce the decline of gas jobs in the sector, which is of a high priority for Australia, considering the mining sector has been hit with declining job numbers as markets level out. It was hoped the LNG industry would absorb those who have left the mining sector in search of continued employment and whilst this has been true to a degree, there is a lot of work to be done to secure gas jobs for the future.
Floating LNG is cheaper and extensible, meaning because the FLNG production platforms are just that, there is a much greater opportunity to crank up the output and pump liquified gas direct to waiting ships. FLNG can be built in low-cost shipyards, and can be moved and possibly used time and again.
It can be suitable for remote, smaller gas fields that otherwise would not be developed. The speed to market is impressive as the old ways of extracting gas to on-shore production facilities, then pumping it back onto ships, meant the construction of expensive pipelines and longer processing times.
Most recent LNG projects based onshore in Australia have struggled to come in on budget. They have taken longer to build and cost more than first budgeted for. Equally, expansions that were suggested in the early days of project development, such as Gorgon in Western Australia and Queensland’s Curtis Island, appear more and more unlikely as projects wrestle with costs, productivity and price wary markets.
Australian LNG must be competitive
The great Australian companies like BHP Billiton, Santos and Woodside are pulling up their socks and getting cracking on FLNG as soon as possible before opportunities are lost.
Australia needs these projects; they are the energy bridge to the future.
They define Australia as the energy super power with strength in coal, uranium exports and dominant in LNG. Floating LNG jobs although not accounting for the same volume as land-based LNG facilities, still contribute to job sector growth.