WA on the up in oil and gas stakes

WA is on track to become the world’s third oil and gas capital after Houston and Aberdeen – particularly in terms of engineering design.

But this ascension in terms of oil and gas is placing a strain on WA’s engineering base.

The State’s oil and gas growth has come as a result of its strong oil and gas engineering base, the presence of a major oil and gas project off its coast, and the fact it shares a time zone with most South-East Asian oil and gas centres.

Australia’s oil and gas capital used to be Melbourne, due to the Bass Strait oil and gas projects.

However, the growth of the North West Shelf has caused the industry to focus on WA.

Even Phillips Petroleum, owner of the massive Bayu Undan gas project in the Timor Sea, has set up its South-East Asian regional office in WA.

When Woodside left its Melbourne digs and set up its head office in WA the shift of power was nearly complete.

A spokesman for the WA division of the Australian Institution of Engineers said the demand for engineers was always strong in WA, particularly in the oil and gas and IT fields.

Clough Engineering spokes-man Peter Collins said the Bayu Undan and Woodside’s LNG Train 4 projects would put a strain on WA’s engineering resources.

“We’re recruiting engineers from around the world,” Mr Collins said.

“Given Perth’s climate and lifestyle, attracting people here is not that hard.”

However, the oil and gas engineer shortage is world-wide.

The University of WA is launching an oil and gas engineering program next year and associated post-graduate programs.

UWA Centre for Oil and Gas Engineering senior lecturer Krish Thaigarajan said response to the degree and, in particular, masters program had been very strong.

There were suggestions four years ago that engineering degrees be cut from the usual four years to help fast track new engineers into the market.

However, industry sources say a growth in the number of graduates coming out of universities will not immediately overcome the engineering shortfall because most companies are demanding engineers with at least five years’ experience.

Part of the problem in sourcing experienced engineers comes from the breadth of the discipline.

There are several disciplines within the profession of engineering, such as mechanical, civil, electrical and chemical, with each of these disciplines split into two halves.

Oil and gas engineering is a multi-disciplinary field that is itself split into three specialities – petroleum, process and offshore engineering.

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