A $US37 billion natural gas project in Darwin has reached its final construction phase and is scheduled to start processing LNG by next year, heralding a big drop in workers at the site.
•Final three modules for Ichthys project arrive
•Employees to drop from 8,000 down to 350-400
•Hopes other construction projects will fill void
After four years of construction, three modules — large pieces of structural, mechanical, and processing equipment — today arrived from Thailand at the Inpex-led Ichthys project in Darwin Harbour.
“That’s the last of 230 modules … This is a really significant occasion, it signifies the end of the module delivery and also the final stages of construction and then the commencement of testing, commissioning, and start-up of our gas plant,” the project’s general manager of construction, Vince Kenny, said.
The project will take natural gas off the coast of Western Australia and pipe it 900km underwater to a processing plant in Darwin Harbour.
“The three modules that arrived today form part of a processing train and it’s an integral part of the production of liquefied natural gas,” Mr Kenny said.
He said the modules can weigh up to 5,400 tonnes and will be transported to an LNG ‘train’ this week.
Number of employees at project to drop
The modules will then be welded together by a group of specialist tradesmen to eventually start processing the gas.
“Presently we’re very close to peak [number of employees] with just over 8,000 people coming through the gate every day and approximately 4,000 are local engagements,” Mr Kenny said.
“We expect to hold peak for several months and then we start on the ramp down as construction completes on the program. Once construction is complete … we will have the continuous operations people which is about 350-400 people.”
Mr Kenny said the gas plant is expected to produce LNG for 40 years, but will shut down annually for maintenance.
“Which will engage a lot of contracting people from local and Australian businesses,” he said.
More construction projects to fill gap
The Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce’s Greg Bicknell said the loss of jobs was always coming, but it is expected to be felt locally.
“We won’t see the same number of people visiting through the airports … there’ll be some impacts on accommodation, the general retail spend,” he said.
“It’s a fair impact over the period that they’ve been doing the construction and at a very welcome time.”
Mr Bicknell said the gap will be filled by other construction projects, like defence infrastructure, a new five-star hotel, and parts of the Darwin Port.
“We’ve got the defence infrastructure build-up that’s been talked about so that is a major spend over the next long term so that’s very important in terms of the construction sector,” he said.
“Further out of Darwin, we have the Tennant-Creek-to-Mount-Isa gas pipeline.”