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  • Gasfields Commission
  • 2016-09-06

Environmental consulting and contracting company, Perfect Earth, sees real long term opportunities providing their rehabilitation and erosion control services to the onshore gas industry in the Surat Basin, opening a local office in Chinchilla last year.

Director of Perfect Earth, Marcus Koolen says the Sunshine Coast based business got its start in South East Queensland in 2007 undertaking erosion control work for the local Council, then expanded into the regional water grid, which in turn led to work on Curtis Island for the Gladstone Area Water Board.

Marcus says on Curtis Island they developed relationships with a number of major civil works contractors and tier 1 firms during the onshore gas industry construction boom, which also took them to the upstream gas fields across the Surat Basin.

“We essentially worked out way from Curtis Island all the way back to upstream,” he says.

“Those relationships, plus our quality and workmanship immensely helped us move ahead as a leading company undertaking a range of erosion and sediment control rehabilitation and revegetation works in relation to all manner of gas infrastructure such as roads, ponds, right of ways, hubs and so on.

“We grew our initial workforce from seven to thirty-eight at the peak in 2013” he says.

Perfect timing for Chinchilla office

While things did slow in 2014 after the peak, Perfect Earth began to re-position itself for the longer term operational phase of the onshore gas industry making the decision to put down roots and invest in a local office in Chinchilla to better service its gas industry customers.

“It was just good timing, because some in the community were struggling after the construction phase slowdown, and there were many good quality staff living there that were able to walk straight into our business and continue what they’ve done in the past.

“These were often employees that had worked for a CSG company and who have a full understanding of the industry and these projects.”

Perfect Earth have up to 15 employees in Chinchilla and the work involves mainly vegetation management work for right of ways, well pads, compressor stations and water pipelines.

“We are basically putting money back into the local economy – that’s been our biggest goal to use the locals and keep them engaged,” Marcus says.

Marcus is hopeful they will be able to increase their business and engage more local workers.

“The thing with our company is that it is so variable in the environmental services we undertake that it gives us a lot of opportunity in this region (Surat Basin),” he says.

Industry requirements

Many of the rehabilitation works undertaken by Perfect Earth for the onshore gas industry are on private land and Marcus believes ensuring good relationships with rural landholders has been one of the important keys to their business success.

“We have a lot of experience in landholder relations from the South East water grid, pipelines, easements and other works which is similar to the gas industry experience.

“In addition, our ISO accreditation and exceptional LTI (Loss Time Injury) ratios helped us get our foot in the door with the CSG companies; we didn’t find these requirements much of a burden as we already had these processes in place,” he says.

Post the CSG construction boom, Marcus says a lot of competitors as well as potential clients have left the region, which he believes means that CSG companies need to use more sub-contractors to undertake their programs which in turn is of benefit to companies like theirs.

He says from Perfect Earth’s point of view, there are efficiencies to be met in the CSG industry, and part of that efficiency will come from direct engagement from specialists that deal with that.

“We believe that is the best way forward to reduce the costs of an overall project. That’s where we see ourselves as being engaged directly by the company, rather than having to pay a civil contractor (middle man) their portion which usually adds about 10 percent,” he says.

One of the other recent industry trends has been the greater contraction and centralisation of procurement staff in particular.

Marcus says its actually been a positive as our contacts now are better, long term contacts.

Future outlook

“We’re looking forward to the ongoing operations and maintenance phase for the gas industry - that’s where we see ourselves in the long-term,” Marcus says.

“There’s plenty of work in the Surat Basin as these (CSG) companies still have many major erosion and compliance issues to deal with. We’re even looking at revegetating a considerable amount of well pads that one company has inherited. We see all this sort of works as a sustainable form of business for us.”

Marcus has two key tips for other local businesses looking to succeed in the onshore gas industry.

“Belong to a good industry organisation such as the Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) which for us has been a vital link to this whole industry and supply chain in the Surat Basin.

“Also, don’t give up – just keep working towards your goal; it’s when you give up that you fail,” Marcus says.