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Queensland gas boom fires up job numbers

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A new report by Energy Skills Queensland found the gas sector will employ more than 14,100 workers when it peaks in 2024, double the number predicted previously.

While the report confirms the construction phase of the boom is set to peak this year, the operation and maintenance phase is expected to keep thousands employed for the next 50 years.

The report showed demand would centre around upstream operations at the Central Queensland gas fields as workers help deliver six LNG production trains.

Energy Skills Queensland chief executive Glenn Porter said the predicted workforce numbers was more than double the amount of original estimates.

"We did an original plan back in 2009 which projected demand would be 7,000 workers - the number of workers is more than double of what the original projections are,” Porter said.

Based on an estimated 45,000 wells, Queensland’s CSG-LNG workforce is expected to peak at 14,100 workers by 2024. And if production increases to 59,000 wells, the workforce peak would grow to 17,000.

"The jobs will be in the Surat Basin, the Bowen Basin region and then the gas processing plants will be operating out of Gladstone, so there will be almost 15,000 jobs," Porter said.

"There will be a small amount of those jobs operating out of Brisbane as well.”

However Porter warned that a skills shortage was looming as demand for experienced workers increased.

The report stated that project managers, engineers, rig managers and specialist trainers and assessors would be critical roles in the operations and maintenance phase of the gas boom.

"It is going to be a challenge, it's not going to be easy to achieve. There will be some shortages along the way," Porter said.

"The current downturn in the coal industry has helped the CSG industry [in terms of attracting workers]," Porter said.

"When the coal industry starts to ramp up again, then the labour market will become a lot more competitive."

And with billions of dollars being injected into the Queensland economy off the back of the gas sector, many are calling for other states to get on board and reap similar benefits.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association's chief operating officer for eastern Australia, Paul Fennelly, said the report was set to remind other states of what they were missing out on.

This report shows Queensland's natural gas industry will continue to grow for decades to come and provide important on-going career opportunities across many occupations," Fennelly told The Australian Financial Review.

"We are talking about the emergence of a globally significant industry that will provide enormous benefits for Queensland and the nation.

"It dramatically highlights the economic impacts of this industry in Queensland, in stark contrast to its southern neighbours in this regard."

Fennelly said the Queensland government had moved promptly to remove obstacles to the development of the industry, an initiative lacking in other states rich with gas reserves.

Federal Resources Minister Ian ­Macfarlane has previously stated he is an advocate of the CSG industry and commented that the energy boom seen in Queensland had meant farmers could stay on their land and repopulate regional communities, keeping them viable.

"In Queensland we've got 4000 co-existence agreements, we've got farmers earning up to $6 million over the next 20 years... and the CSG companies are there at the invitation of the farmer."

Macfarlane said it was the industry’s responsibility to communicate the potential benefits of the energy boom.

“There are issues and lessons the whole industry can learn from coal seam gas,’ he stated.

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