Building a project and a culture from the ground up - The Tale of Ichthys
Joking that his speech could have been ‘very short’ if things didn’t go to plan, Conor Walker, INPEX Director of Operations looked visibly pleased as he took the stage at the November Petroleum Club Industry Dinner and settled in to discuss the Ichthys project that was first discovered in 2000.
“We’ve started up production from Ichthys and sent our first cargos. It’s been a pretty good month,” said Walker with a grin from ear to ear.
The Ichthys LNG Project is a Joint Venture between INPEX and major partners Total, CPC Corporation Taiwan and the Australian subsidiaries of Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas, Kansai Electric Power, JERA and Toho Gas.
Walker who heads up an operations team of 600 who have provided a small portion of the workload on the project until now.
“The project consumed 407 million-man hours of effort, and 50,000 people participated in putting it on the map.
“I will say this, while my operations team may have only accounted for a portion of the total number, it has been no less important.
“In the words of an old colleague of mine – this was and is not a spectator sport.
While not a sport, commentators and industry experts around the world have been blown away by Ichthys’ numbers.
With total proven reserves of around 12.8 trillion cubic feet (366 billion cubic meters), and production slated to be around 350 million cubic feet/day, Ichthys is a true heavyweight and the single biggest gas condensate discovery in the last 40 years.
Resources are fed to the innovative Central Processing Facility (CPF), the Ichthys Explorer, which is the world’s largest semi-submersible platform weighing approximately 120,000 tonnes and with topsides measuring approximately 130m by 120m.
The facility which INPEX President Director Australia, Seiyo Ito, lovingly refers to as his “big beautiful baby” was designed to operate continuously for 40 years and is built to withstand a one in 10,000-year event.
While these numbers are impressive, what really established this project for Walker was resolve shown by each of the teams to make it happen.
“Many thought that it would never happen. ‘Who’s INPEX? They will never get it off the ground’ they said.
“We were able through the drive and determination our teams to achieve something that they thought would never happen.
“We’ve delivered it. We’re producing, and we’re producing well,” said Walker.
As a first-time operator, INPEX faced many challenges, but the company also began with a blank canvas and the ability to create a whole new culture from the ground up.
For Walker this blank canvas allowed the operations team to achieve three goals from the very beginning:
1. Embed the operations team into the design early and with the right people
2. Deliver systems that were future proof and standard across the whole operation – both onshore and offshore
3. And attract world-class talent by leveraging the reputation of the project
While a blank canvas can be used to your advantage, for Walker it also meant that the buck stops with him.
“In all this, we didn’t have anyone else to blame. There was no one else before us the point the finger at if things went wrong.
“But I’m pleased to say that we haven’t found a need to upset with our handiwork as yet,” said Mr Walker.
Now that Conor and his co-workers at INPEX have turned the company’s ambitious dream into a fully operational reality and brought one of the world's largest and most complex LNG developments to life, the community is set to benefit from employment, business opportunities and community benefits for the 40 years.