Australia’s Northern Territory is known for its stark, beautiful Outback, its indigenous Aborigines, and the movie character Crocodile Dundee. It’s a remote place and the capital, Darwin, is the remotest of all, located at the country’s Top End on the edge of the Timor Sea.
Lately, however, the area has begun to shed its image as the nation’s last frontier—thanks in part to a major new energy plant built at Wickham Point, not far from the palm tree-dotted shores of Darwin Harbor. The facility, engineered and built by Bechtel, has the capacity to produce 3.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas annually.
The Darwin plant is one of several projects that have vaulted Bechtel into a leadership position in the flourishing LNG industry. Like other recent Bechtel LNG projects, Darwin uses the industry-leading process technology developed by ConocoPhillips and marketed worldwide by a Bechtel-ConocoPhillips collaboration. The process uses three stages involving propane, ethylene, and methane to progressively refrigerate and liquefy natural gas to a temperature of minus 161 degrees Celsius. The very first application of the process was in 1969 at an Alaskan plant built by Bechtel.
The collaboration between Bechtel and ConocoPhillips was especially strong at Darwin because Conoco-Phillips is the majority stakeholder in Darwin LNG Pty. Ltd., the owner of the project. ConocoPhillips also operates the Bayu-Undan gas field, supplying the gas to the LNG plant via a 500-kilometer undersea pipeline. All of the plant’s output will be sent to Japan under a 17-year agreement with Tokyo Electric Power and Tokyo Gas.