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WA training institute facilitates remote access to its process plant

Challenger Institute of Technology is developing technology that will allow those in remote locations within the oil and gas industry to have external access to its process plant at the Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training in the southern suburbs of Perth.

Access to competency training for workers thousands of kilometres away will save employers and employees alike both time and money.

Working in conjunction with industry partners Apache and Honeywell, the Interactive learning model:  "Remote access to ACEPT Process Plant project" will research and develop options for regional workforces to have external, real time, access to the simulated process plant.

Competency tests will be carried out for new and existing workers in operations off-shore or from remote sites within Western Australia and other states involved in process operations training.

With such a strong demand within industry to increase workforce capabilities in the safe and effective operation of a plant, the real-time remote access to ACEPT’s facility will enable companies to retain workers on site, saving time, man-hours and travel expenses.

With most employment sites working to near-capacity, setting aside production resources to conduct emergency response training is not always viable. Remote real-time access will allow emergency response scenarios to be managed remotely, significantly improving the learning experience for remote students and exposing them to a “real” environment without the need to physically attend the ACEPT facility.

The remote access training portal cuts down on the amount of time spent at Challenger Institute of Technology’s training facility by 40-50 per cent. Crucial emergency response and further process plant competency training must still, however, be conducted on-site at ACEPT. Trainees spend a minimum of two weeks at the Munster facility proving their capabilities in crisis management.

The ACEPT training facility is said to be the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Representing an investment of more than $22 million, it would not be practical for resource companies to duplicate this infrastructure. 

“Utilising our existing facility remotely will bolster the overall student capacity of ACEPT and in turn increase the number of skilled workers available to enter the industry,” ACEPT director Greg Guppy said.

“With remote access to process control becoming an industry standard, this grant will ensure ACEPT retains its position as a leader at the forefront of industry training.”

Funding for this project was provided by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education under the National Resources Sector Workforce Strategy.

Australia’s oil and gas industry, specifically the LNG industry, is growing rapidly. In the past 20 years, two LNG plants have been established in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Science, a further eight LNG plants are expected to be established in the near future.

This rapid expansion is placing severe pressure on the skills base necessary to operate the plants safely. The rapid emergence of the coal seam gas LNG industry in Queensland will see significant competition for skills.

It is expected that over the next decade, the size of the LNG process operator workforce will grow to six times its current size, or approximately 3,000 workers.

“In such an environment, it is essential that the industry works collaboratively and with partners to explore ways in which the required skills can be developed in the shortest possible time, while maintaining the quality and integrity of delivery,” Guppy said.

The target learner groups will be remotely-based students undertaking process plant qualifications at Certificate II level and above. These learners have a need to access process plant in a safe and controlled manner. Existing workers in the industry also have a need to access process plant to verify their current competence. 

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