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The 400 staff at INPEX’s world-class Ichthys LNG onshore processing facilities on the outskirts of Darwin had every reason to cheer when the 100th cargo of liquefied natural gas pulled away from the jetty.

It was a remarkable milestone achieved in just over a year.

The achievements of the multi-billion-dollar project go beyond that first century of cargoes. When LPG and condensate from Darwin and the Ichthys gas field off the Western Australia coast are added, more than 180 shipments have safely departed for overseas customers.

General Manager Onshore Operations, Dave Dann says staff and subcontractors were justifiably proud as the Pacific Arcadia — carrying 145,000 cubic metres of LNG — sailed away from Bladin Point.

“It was a very significant milestone,” he says. “At first it was about getting the plant built and then getting the first shipment sent. “Now we’re meeting expected production rates — we have our challenges, but overall everything is going well.”

Dave says the INPEX-operated facilities are operating efficiently because of the skill and dedication of staff and contractors, a combined workforce of about 400.

“We rely absolutely on the subcontractors to support us.”

Only workers with highly-specialised skills not available locally are fly-in fly-out contractors — and all the contractors are from Darwin and Palmerston.

Five Territory school leavers are about to begin training as production technicians at the INPEX plant through the Charles Darwin University’s Trade School. Production Superintendent Ben Schmidt says: “They can begin and complete their apprenticeships here. Being able to do that on a world-class project is special.

“This place is extraordinary. It blows people away when they first come here – the magnitude and complexity is incredible.”

More than 200 apprentices, including many young Aboriginal Territorians, were trained during the building of the LNG plant on a 520-hectare site alongside Darwin Harbour.

The first thing all staff learn is safety.

“Safety is more than a simple value to us,”  says Ben. “It’s at the core of everything we do. We want everyone to go home to their families from here without ever being hurt.”

Many of the INPEX staff are “new” Territorians, lured north by the prospect of working on a world-leading gas plant.

Dave moved to Darwin from Perth five years ago.

“I love it here,” he says. “I’m originally from Tasmania – and Darwin is like a warm Tassie.”

Ben and his wife Cass, who have three children aged six to nine, are also enjoying life in Darwin. Cass is an environmental scientist and decided to return to the workforce when the family moved to the Territory from Perth nearly four years ago. She was delighted when she found a job quite easily.

“The lifestyle in Darwin is great,” says Ben. “It’s a good place to bring up kids.” TQ

Even people familiar with the Ichthys project are still dazzled by the statistics.

It is considered one of the finest engineering feats of all time.

About 1100 Aboriginal people have been engaged on the project, either through direct employment or subcontracts.

Nearly 10,000 people a day worked on the onshore project at peak construction.

An economic assessment completed by ACIL Allen forecasts Ichthys LNG will add $190 billion to Australia’s GDP through to 2050.

It has so far resulted in more than $10 billion flowing through the NT economy.

The Territory Government will gain $2.6 billion in tax.

Six hundred direct and indirect jobs are estimated to be created each year for 40 years.

Total economic output in the NT will increase by $118 billion.

Ichthys LNG, which began production in mid-2018, is expected to produce 8.9 million tonnes of LNG and 1.5 million tonnes of LPG per annum, along with more than 100,000 barrels of condensate per day at peak.

Gas and condensate from the 800 square kilometre Ichthys field, 220 kilometres off the Western Australia coast, is exported to the Darwin processing plant along an 890-kilometre pipeline, the fifth longest gas pipeline in the world.

The pipeline, which has a diameter of 106 centimetres, is composed of about 700,000 tonnes of steel and coated with 550,000 tonnes of concrete.

The Ichthys Field is estimated to contain more than 12 trillion cubic feet of gas and 500 million barrels of condensate.

There is room to build four more production trains at Bladin Point if needed.