Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has toured Chevron’s massive Gorgon LNG plant off the West Australian coast, shrugging off a production outage to hail the $US54 billion project a triumph.
The timing was bad, with output suspended last week due to a major technical breakdown, a month after production started and a fortnight after the first cargo was shipped.
It could take up to two months to carry out mechanical repairs and restart the plant, and there are estimates it will cost hundreds of million of dollars to fix.
Speaking in Karratha before flying to Barrow Island, Mr Turnbull downplayed low prices for LNG, saying the demand for resources, particularly from the Pilbara, was as strong as ever.
“Prices are not as high as they used to be but the demand is strong – the volumes are higher than they used to be,” Mr Turnbull told Spirit Radio.
“Australia will overtake Qatar in the Arabian Gulf as the world’s largest exporter of LNG within a few years and it’s in a large measure on the back of these projects here in Western Australia.”
Chevron managing director Roy Krzywosinski told Mr Turnbull and other dignitaries that the problem was a “hiccup” and a “small speed bump”.
“It’s not a huge issue. It’s just something we need to address,” Mr Krzywosinski said on a coach ride around the facility.
Mr Turnbull also told a local radio station he believed the Pilbara had big tourism potential, especially ancient Aboriginal rock art on the Burrup Peninsula – some of which has been controversially relocated by Woodside to make way for its gas plants.
“These are some of the most ancient works of human creation and some of the most mysterious works of human creation,” the prime minister said.
“Images of giant animals that were extinct thousands, tens of thousands of years ago. You know there is one of a thylacine, a Tasmanian tiger?
“It is very, very interesting.”
Mr Turnbull will spend the next two days in WA, which he has wooed with a $490 million one-off payment to make up for the state’s low GST share.
The promise follows a $499 million payment from the Abbott government for the same reason last year.
The Liberal state government maintains the GST distribution formula is unfair and must be fixed.