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TAPPING INTO WA: Britt Schmidt (left) and Jim Wright at Cameron’s newly opened operation in Kewdale. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

$120m oil, gas-testing facility

THE booming oil and gas sector continues to draw investment into Perth’s industrial sector from offshore service providers, with the latest being a $120 million oil and gas valves and pressure control facility built by US-based group Cameron.

The Perth-based facility owned and operated by Cameron, a specialist in the manufacture and repair of underwater valves and pressurised equipment, marks another significant step in the development of the oil and gas industry in Western Australia.

Opened this week, the Kewdale facility, which will employ 150 people, follows the likes of GE, which last year invested $100 million in a maintenance and training centre at Jandakot, and FMC Technologies, which established a service facility at the Australian Marine Complex at Henderson.

Cameron’s operation, based around a series of concrete testing pits up to six metres deep, will provide post sales, maintenance and test support for oil and gas companies like Apache, Woodside and Chevron.

The facility includes a 4,500-square metre workshop and a 3,000sqm office, which will carry out advanced engineering, repair and maintenance on underwater oil and gas parts.

Specialised and advanced engineering skill is required to repair these high pressure and precision designed parts, some of which have a shelf life of up to 50 years.

Britt Schmidt, who heads the engineered and process valves operating division of Cameron’s valves and measurement business segment, said building the facility in Perth was a strategic move due to the number of projects being undertaken on the North West shelf, off the coast of the Pilbara.

He also said the facility was built expecting there to be tremendous growth in the industry and to provide the hub for the Asia-Pacific.

The new facility has the capability to support up to 300 employees and Mr Schmidt expected the workforce to grow rapidly as new opportunities became available in WA.

Growth within the industry saw Cameron report $500 million in revenue in Australia in 2012.

In 2008, Cameron bought Perth-based Geographe Energy, an after-market services company for valves with about 120 employees.

The expertise acquired in that purchase helped Cameron to refine and develop its core technologies.

Mr Schmidt noted there were some gaps in the WA supply market, which he hoped could be plugged by local companies.

Cameron valves and measurement president Jim Wright said the oil and gas industry in WA was facing skills shortages and rising labour costs, notably the specialist skills required for the undersea gas and oil industry.

“The biggest challenge we face is finding skilled people to grow the business,” Mr Wright said.

Cameron provided key valve parts to the failed Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 that spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of the US killing 11 people.

The inability to plug the oil spill provided a wake-up call to the oil and gas sector, according to Mr Wright. Citing many changes to control systems and regulations, he said precision engineering had been undertaken industry wide to ensure that it did not happen again.

He also saw it as a positive for Cameron because it meant their customers were buying more valves and other products.

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