WA’s success lies in technology, innovation

WA’s success lies in technology, innovation

Fri, 17/11/2017 - 10:16
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FMG operations

FMG's integrated operations centre is an impressively advanced facility. Photo: Fortescue Metals Group

Western Australia is an unrivalled source of raw materials and energy, but I firmly believe our true success is in technology and innovation.

I recently had the opportunity to highlight this important topic to an audience of industry experts at the Gas Asia Summit in Singapore.

It also gave me the chance to showcase our state’s expertise in LNG, as Minister for Mines and Petroleum and as WA’s first Asian Engagement Minister.

Asia is a region of the world that will provide opportunities to support the next phase of global economic development.

WA’s resources base is a well-known strategic advantage, however our technology story is not well understood.

Perth has been at the forefront of innovation and has the capacity to be an ideal technology partner for Asia.

It probably goes without saying that major resources projects – such as WA’s world-scale mining and LNG projects – drive innovation and expertise.

These complex projects require careful planning, management and often collaboration between industry, government and research institutions.

The WA government’s vision is for the state to be the destination of choice for responsible exploration and development of our natural resources.

We support investment in mining and energy through the provision of a strong economy, a mature resources services sector, world-class research institutions and a skilled workforce.

We understand innovation is the key to maintaining international competiveness and ensuring the longevity of our resources sector.

WA produces the majority of the world’s mining software and we host a research and development sector that rivals that of anywhere in the world.

The Australian and WA governments foster this research and development by collaborating with industry and our universities in the Western Australian Energy Research Alliance, which brings together our high-quality universities with our oil and gas industry leaders.

A notable result of this collaboration is the University of Western Australia’s partnership with Shell Australia, which helped to develop the floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) vessel technology being used on Prelude, in the Browse Basin off the state’s north-west coast.

Additionally, WA’s expertise has seen industry and the Commonwealth government base significant research institutions in Perth, such as:

• The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Australian Resources Research Centre.

• Woodside Energy’s Woodside Innovation & Technology Hub (better known as WITH).

• One of Chevron’s two Global Technology Centres (the other is located in Aberdeen, Scotland).

Perth is an internationally recognised centre for mining and resources equipment, technology and services, with more than 700 local and international companies operating in the city.

Our city is also the leading resources jurisdiction for the development and implementation of industry step-change innovation through automation, robotics, remote systems and data analytics.

By way of example, Woodside is applying robotic technology to remote sensing and maintenance. In the mining sector, BHP, Rio and Fortescue Metals Group are all applying driverless technology – not in the laboratory, but to everyday operations on site.

I am sure you have heard about driverless cars being tested in California. In WA we already have about 100 driverless trucks in operating mines, being controlled by remote-sensing technology with their operators sitting in air-conditioned office buildings in Perth, thousands of kilometres away.

Similarly, the state houses the LNG Marine Fuel Institute, which is leading the way in the use of LNG as a bunkering fuel.

Perth is the place you should come to for the expertise and solutions to technical challenges at every stage of the LNG value chain.

I would also like to highlight the challenge that is emerging globally in respect of decommissioning offshore oil and gas infrastructure.

The WA government has identified petroleum decommissioning as an essential component of a successful industry.

It’s estimated that 600 petroleum-producing fields in the Asia-Pacific region will cease production over the next 10 years. This will create an expensive challenge for operators.

To be successful, decommissioning requires cooperation, scientific research, technical innovation and skilled workers.

The expertise and skills are already available in Perth. Our capacities can be applied across the Asia Pacific to assist with decommissioning infrastructure when required.

The government is building on the state’s world-class expertise by supporting a joint research and development study into decommissioning by industry participants.

The joint research aims to deliver innovative and transformative offshore decommissioning solutions, reinforcing the state’s position as a regional and global leader.

If you’re looking for technological solutions in the mining and energy sector, you should certainly consider WA as your investment destination.

* Bill Johnston is the WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Commerce and Industrial Relations; Electoral Affairs; Asian Engagement.