A catch-up with the NT's top engineering project in 2020

Ichthys LNG by INPEX was recently announced as the Northern Territory’s top Engineering Excellence Award winner and Sir William Hudson Award finalist for the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards Pinnacle event.
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Ichthys LNG by INPEX was recently announced as the Northern Territory’s top Engineering Excellence Award winner and Sir William Hudson Award finalist for the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards Pinnacle event.

We caught up with the team from INPEX in the wake of their success to find out more about their award-winning project, Ichthys LNG – one of the largest, technically challenging and complex liquefied natural gas developments worldwide featuring an 890-kilometre subsea pipeline and state-of-the-art onshore, liquefied natural gas processing and exportation facilities.


  1. What legacy will the project have on the NT community?

While the positive impact of Ichthys LNG on Australia as a whole is huge – in terms of exports, additional GDP, tax revenue and GST payments; the transformation and social benefits are most visible in Darwin, where the onshore LNG facilities at Bladin Point are located.

From an economic standpoint, it is anticipated over the projected lifespan of 40 years, the Ichthys LNG onshore facilities will inject up to $200 million annually into the NT economy.

The project provided more than 8,000 employment opportunities in the NT during peak construction and will support on average 600 jobs per year in the NT throughout operations.

For the next four decades, Ichthys LNG is forecast to generate $2.6 billion in tax revenue for the NT.

As of 2019, more than $12.5 billion has flowed through the NT economy as a result of Ichthys LNG (since the final investment decision 2012).

The company continues to partner with community organisations including the AFLNT, the SHAK youth drop-in centre operated by the Australian Red Cross, the Australian Volunteer Coastguard, the Palmerston Girls’ Academy, Menzies School of Health, Foodbank NT and a range of small grant recipients through the INPEX Community Investment and Sponsorship program.

Ichthys LNG, INPEX and the Ichthys LNG joint venture have also been able to make meaningful contributions to NT culture and education.

Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and protecting Aboriginal heritage is also a vital part of Ichthys LNG.

In 2018 INPEX signed the Larrakia Ichthys LNG Foundation Trust Agreement, valued at $24 million to benefit the Larrakia community over the next 40 years.

The first programs are being delivered from the Trust and include assisting eligible Larrakia families with the cost of funerals and supporting students’ school expenses.


  1. What challenges did you face while working on the project?

Ichthys LNG is one of the most technically demanding and complex resources projects ever undertaken. Its scale, remote location and the characteristics of the gas/condensate field itself, presented many challenges.

The project is one of the few hydrocarbon energy projects worldwide that incorporates the whole chain of development and production components from the reservoir to LNG export – subsea, offshore, pipeline and onshore – on a scale rarely seen.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the project is that INPEX had to grow its Australian workforce, project management and technical capability almost from scratch. What began with an exploration permit and handful of people in 1998, grew to a peak workforce of more than 30,000 people during construction.

Darwin also saw significant Australian engineering and project management achievements. The 520-hectare LNG processing facility at Bladin Point includes two 4.45 Mtpa LNG processing trains, two 165,000m3 LNG tanks, one 85,000m3 propane tank, one 60,000m3 butane tank, two 60,000m3 condensate tanks and offloading jetty.

Constructing the LNG plant involved a peak workforce of around 9,000 people. The Darwin team built all the site civil works, jetties, tanks, compressor shelters, ground flare and other key facilities, as well as installing and commissioning 230 prefabricated modules that comprise the bulk of the facility. These modules were up to 97m x 44m x 29m in size with a maximum single module weight of 5,500t.

The 500MW combined cycle gas and steam turbine generators that power the Darwin facility is a first for LNG projects worldwide. The dredging campaign in Darwin Harbour was one of the biggest successes, setting a new standard in environmental conservation and community engagement.


  1. What inspired you to enter the project in the awards?

We entered this competition to pay respect to the great work and effort of our skilled and knowledgeable engineers at INPEX and to showcase, through the prestigious Engineers Australia’s Excellence Awards, one of the largest and most complex engineering projects ever undertaken in Australia.


  1. With an expected operational life of more than 40 years, what does the future of the Ichthys LNG project look like from an operational perspective?    

Designing, constructing and commissioning the Ichthys LNG facilities created more than 50,000 jobs, took over 400 million work hours, and has created a lasting economic and social legacy in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Australia.

Today, Ichthys LNG produces up to 8.9 million tonnes of LNG per year, 1.65 million tonnes of LPG per year and approximately 100,000 barrels of condensate a day. It delivers energy to customers worldwide, creating thousands of Australian jobs over the next 40 years.

INPEX’s priority is to ensure its LNG facilities in Australia are fully utilised over their expected 40-year lifespan. 

Ichthys LNG is central to INPEX’s operations in Australia and forms a cornerstone of the Company’s global energy business.


  1. What are some of the most important innovations that have been created as a result of this project?

It is in the integration of all the various engineering aspects and technologies where Ichthys LNG truly excels.

Specifically – INPEX took established LNG technology and pushed it further, applying it at a scale beyond anything seen in Australian waters before.

Ichthys LNG delivered a number of industry leading facilities and engineering firsts:

  • The largest semi-submersible CPF in the world
  • The longest subsea pipeline in the southern hemisphere
  • One of the largest URF scopes in a single project worldwide and the largest within Australia
  • The first LNG project to use a combined cycle gas and steam turbine power plant to power its onshore facilities.

The winner of the Sir William Hudson Award will be announced on Monday 9 November during the Pinnacles Award ceremony, which will be broadcast live online.

Register now for the National Pinnacle Awards Ceremony