Expo shifts CSG focus

5By Courtney Pearson

May 6, 2015

AS an established hub for coal seam gas exploration, Queensland’s Surat Basin is to become a veritable hotbed of activity as projects start moving to the operations phase.

Luring industry players of all sizes, including majors such as Santos, Arrow Energy and Origin Energy, the basin hosts major projects including the GLNG development and the Surat Gas project.

Now in its fifth year, the Surat Basin Energy and Mining Expo draws visitors to the region from across Australia and the globe.

The free two-day expo covers energy, mining and resources products and services and was designed to support Queensland’s resources industry through networking opportunities and sales.

This year’s event will be held just outside of the basin in Toowoomba, which is becoming a major industry centre.

Australian Events director of corporate development Greg Johnson said more and more companies were heading to Toowoomba to establish their bases.

“The title for the event is of course Surat Basin but essentially Toowoomba is the gateway to the riches of the Surat Basin and that western land that lies beyond it,” Mr Johnson said.

With projects including the Second Range Crossing bypass, the inland city will become a freight corridor for Queensland and possibly the rest of Australia.

Federal Industry and Science minister Ian Macfarlane officially launched this year’s expo.

Mr Macfarlane – who is also the Federal Member for Groom, which comprises Toowoomba in the Darling Downs region – was approached due the event’s rising profile.

“We realise that the event has grown quite significantly over the years and we believe that it has a rightful place as a national event of some significance,” Mr Johnson said.

The 2015 Surat Basin Energy and Mining Expo is expected to showcase 400 exhibitors and about 3000 products and services.

“The types of areas that they cover are new technologies; mining and engineering; green energy; safety and training; manufacturing; trucks; transportation and rail; storage and warehousing; aviation; and trades services to the big developers, the big miners and the big infrastructure projects,” Mr Johnson said.

This year the expo will be held at the Toowoomba Showgrounds between 17 and 18 June.

Shift of focus

As construction winds down and the operations and maintenance phases kick in at many Surat Basin projects, activity has shifted to other sectors.

This year’s expo has changed focus accordingly, moving from CSG to include infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, rail, ports, aviation and renewable energy.

“Initially, in the hurly burly of the coal seam gas explosion of economic activity and construction activity out there, the focus was clearly on coal seam gas but what that industry has brought to the local area in the Surat Basin and Toowoomba is a whole lot of other development that we never would have anticipated,” Mr Johnson said.

“It’s an exciting time for the area.”

Toowoomba has welcomed the Second Crossing bypass and will see a number of developments come to fruition.

Last month construction was approved for a 5000 hectare solar farm southwest of Toowoomba, and work continues on the Outer Circulating Road project, expansion of New Hope Group’s New Acland coal mine and upgrades to the Warragul Highway.

“The icing on the cake and the most amazing thing that’s happened in the last 12 months is we have, in inland Australia, a full-blown 2.87km international airport,” Mr Johnson said.

The Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport has a “modest amount of aviation traffic”, with the prospect of exports from the airport, he said.

Mr Johnson said he was optimistic about the future of CSG in Australia as it remained a largely untapped resource.

“The coal seam gas price has suffered in line with the falling oil price but history will show that sort of decline isn’t sustainable with the ebbs and flows of commerce and the economy must eventually head north,” he said.

Industry collaboration

Delegates will be able to attend extra events, attached to the Surat Basin Energy and Mining Expo.

An industry forum will be held a day before the expo to discuss the future of Australian projects and the economy.

The 2015 Major Projects Report, an initiative of the Queensland Major Contractors Association and Construction Skills Queensland, found the Surat Basin was set to become one of Queensland’s biggest boom areas.

The report’s lead author, BIS Shrapnel lead economist Adrian Hart, will be speaking at the forum.

“His role was to identify existing projects in Queensland region by region and isolate very likely projects that would occur, and what he found from that extensive study was that the Surat Basin could anticipate a major boom within the next five years that would require employees or workers from beyond the Toowoomba Surat area to reposition themselves here for work,” Mr Johnson said.

The report was described as a defining moment for the region’s economy as it was “based on real research with real numbers and real projects”, he said.

Mr Hart will also speak at the Western Downs Regional Council welcome breakfast.

The event organisers’ wish-list of speakers includes a number of ministers from the state’s new Labor Government.

“We think this is the perfect forum for them in their infancy as a government and not [having] a lot of experience in energy, mining, infrastructure and industry generally to come to the expo and take a key role in reassuring businesses of a good future, but also for them to be exposed to what is happening over the two-day period and to learn,” Mr Johnson said.

The two forums are part of five events across the event program, which includes luncheons and an evening function.

“At each one of these there will be leaders, thinkers, innovators, risk-takers and people in the industry that are making a difference – not just for their own companies but for the community,” Mr Johnson said.