11/08/2015 - 05:47

Skills focus in oil and gas pipeline

11/08/2015 - 05:47

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Big energy companies are fairly well prepared for the next wave of LNG projects coming into production, according to industry executive Keith Spence, but they need to stay focused on training to ensure a good supply of skilled workers is on tap.

QUALITY: Trish Hawkey and Grant O’Keefe are aiming for a more competitive training offering. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Big energy companies are fairly well prepared for the next wave of LNG projects coming into production, according to industry executive Keith Spence, but they need to stay focused on training to ensure a good supply of skilled workers is on tap.

As chairman of the Australian Centre for Energy Process Training (Acept), Mr Spence has kept a close eye on the industry’s preparations.

“I think we’re doing pretty well for the start-up phase,” Mr Spence told Business News.

“The challenge is to maintain the level of training, to sustain operations in what will be a much bigger industry.”

The LNG sector is set to more than double in size over the next three years, as seven new projects across Australia commission 13 LNG ‘trains’, up from eight currently.

The shortage of experienced plant operators has long been recognised as a major challenge, and Mr Spence said the industry was working together to find solutions.

“I’m extremely pleased, it hasn’t been easy,” he said.

The ageing workforce in Australia, and the planned start-up of new LNG facilities in the US, which are looking to Australia for recruits, adds to the challenge.

One notable initiative was a training partnership between Chevron and Woodside, which operates the North West Shelf venture’s Karratha gas plant.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA’s Energy Apprenticeships Group hosts the trainees in this program, which started last year.

Chevron Australia HR general manager Kaye Butler said the initiative gave Chevron trainees important onsite operational experience.

“This new wave of trainees join more than 400 people who have already participated in training programs specifically aimed at developing skills and creating job opportunities with the Gorgon and Wheatstone projects,” Ms Butler said.

Companies seeking to pursue opportunities in this space include ASX-listed training provider Site Group International.

It recently acquired Perth-based Wild Geese International, which specialises in oil and gas training, in a deal worth up to $8 million.

Wild Geese director Trish Hawkey said she and business partner Grant O’Keefe had not been looking to sell, but saw opportunities to do more as part of Site.

“We will have a more complete training offering,” Ms Hawkey told Business News.

A major attraction was Site’s live process plant training capability, which includes various separation vessels and filtration facilities.

Ms Hawkey said Site was planning further live process plant facilities throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Mr Spence said a $15 million upgrade at Acept would help to meet the industry’s needs.

The upgrade would broaden the centre’s capabilities beyond process plant operator training to related fields such as maintenance and engineering.

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