An Engineer’s Story: Tackling Safety at Ichthys Gas Field

Ensuring one of the world’s largest gas production facilities is continuously safe is a huge task. Defining a strategy, implementing it, and deploying the right safety applications is a megaproject. HIMA has been doing this at Ichthys gas field since 2009. What does it take to succeed at a project of this size? HIMA engineer Nalini Kanth provides insights based on his experiences on site.

The Ichthys gas field was one of the biggest sources of hydrocarbon liquids ever discovered in Australia. The facility operates 890 kilometers of subsea pipeline and can produce up to 8.9 million metric tonnes of LNG and 1.6 million metric tonnes of LPG annually. The figures are astonishing, and so too are the requirements for ensuring safe operation. INPEX, Japan’s largest exploration and production company and operator of the plant, turned to HIMA for its decades of expertise and its leading-edge safety applications. Nalini Kanth, a veteran engineer at HIMA, gives his take on how HIMA rose to the safety challenges of ensuring safety at Ichthys.

A Wide-Reaching Project: From Singapore to Australia

“I began working on this megaproject in Singapore during the engineering and testing phase and then went on to the at-shore commissioning phase in South Korea,” explains Nalini Kanth. But the journey didn’t stop there for the expert engineer. After his work there was complete, the next destination was the offshore field in Australia – the operational heart of the project. “The demands of working on this type of project are pretty intense. I was working on the off-shore fly in fly out program, which basically meant I was on 24-hour standby,” continues Kanth.

Bladin Point near Darwin: Ichthys LNG Project onshore facilities construction © INPEX

A particular personal challenge for Kanth was the demanding nature of being on call around the clock and being separated from his family for so long. However, he believes that having a positive mindset, being passionate about the job, and the high level of support from HIMA management were key to overcoming these personal challenges and keeping him focused on the job. “Staying upbeat was vital in mitigating stress, and HIMA’s top management supported us from the very outset. This meant we all stayed motivated to deliver the highest quality of safety.”

HIMA and INPEX were perfectly suited to another. INPEX strongly believes in “Anzen Dai Ichi”, which translates as “Safety Number One”. “It really helps when both parties are on the same page in terms of safety,” added Kanth. “We always strive to implement oil and gas industry best practices in harmony with the most advanced safety systems and the customer was driven by this as well.”

Experience and Attention to Detail Key to Success

The HIMA team had many duties, with one particularly memorable challenge occurring during the engineering stage. HIMA had to ensure compliance with INPEX’s strict requirements in terms of the scope and quality of safety delivered, while working against a tight deadline. The team overcame this hurdle by performing extensive research and applying its industry knowledge to implement top-quality engineering methods, resource utilization strategies, and proven project management practices. As a result, this phase was completed on time, within budget, and in line with INPEX’S expectations.

May 2017, Browse Basin: The Ichthys LNG Project’s central processing facility arrives in Australian waters following a 5600-kilometer tow from South Korea. © INPEX

HIMA implemented many of its products as part of the project. HIMA software and hardware were used for applications, including the burner management system (BMS), firewater pump protective units, miles per gallon (MPG) protective units, volatile organic compounds (VOC) compressors, and high-integrity pressure protection systems (HIPPS). Cybersecurity was also a key factor in the project. HIMA deployed its proven cybersecurity controls for the entire facility to negate the risks of having a large network that can be accessed by multiple users.

A Strong Partnership Results in Success

The megaproject took a great deal of work, but the outcome was hugely successful. The Ichthys gas facility now operates in accordance with the highest safety standards. “Working on the INPEX project was a brilliant experience for me. I learned a lot from the INPEX staff who came from different backgrounds and had a high level of experience with commissioning and operations. I was also able to share some of my experience with them. I am looking forward to more opportunities like this in my career,” summarizes Kanth.

“The megaproject at Ichthys was certainly challenging in terms of scope and deadlines. However, HIMA and INPEX both had the same vision for ensuring safety at the facility. This partnership didn’t just mean we got the job done, but also that we were able to learn from each other and build on our expertise for future projects.”
Nalini Kanth,
Lead Commissioning Engineer