By Florence Tan, Lewis Jackson and Emily Chow
SINGAPORE/SYDNEY (Reuters) -Chevron’s two western Australian plants continued exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on Friday, despite a step-up in strikes and a fault at the Wheatstone plant that cut production by a quarter, shipping data on LSEG Eikon and Kpler showed.
Workers at Gorgon and Wheatstone, responsible for over 5% of global supply, on Thursday escalated what had been six days of limited strikes. Until roughly the end of September, unions can strike for up to 24 hours each day and refuse tasks like loading tankers.
However, tanker Pacific Enlighten docked at the Wheatstone terminal on Thursday and loaded 140,650 cubic metres of LNG, the data showed. The tanker is controlled by Japan’s largest LNG importer JERA and will be heading to Japan.
The tanker Macoma loaded a cargo for China at Gorgon on Thursday.
Chevron told customer Kyushu Electric Power the strikes would not interfere with LNG supply, President Kazuhiro Ikebe said on Friday. Kansai Electric Power President Nozomu Mori said it expects no direct impact from the strikes at a separate press conference the same day.
On Thursday, an outage at Wheatstone cut production by about a quarter.
Energy analyst Saul Kavonic said strikes would be most effective at moments like this because restarting equipment required more workers.
“Chevron will try use its non unionised workers to restart the equipment, but that can be more challenging and take longer with the less trained, smaller workforce,” he said.
A union representative who declined to be identified said workers at Gorgon and the Wheatstone LNG facility stopped work for 12 hours starting on Thursday evening. It was not clear if this affected efforts to restart Wheatstone and Reuters could not independently verify the claim.
Unions have previously said they will strike opportunistically and target LNG exports in particular.
Chevron said restart activities continued at Wheatstone.
When asked if the company had brought non-union workers to help during the strikes, a spokesperson said Chevron had taken steps to minimise disruption including “having appropriately qualified personnel available.”
MULTIPLE CARGOES SCHEDULED
The next ships due to load at Wheatstone are Asia Excellence on Sept. 18, chartered by Chevron to be shipped to China’s Zhoushan port for ENN Energy Holdings Ltd, and Methane Mickie Harper for Japan on Sept. 29, according to Kpler data.
Another four tankers, destined for Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China, are due to arrive at Gorgon in the next 10 days, the data showed.
LNG exports from Wheatstone are estimated at 628,000 metric tons in September, 27% lower than August, preliminary data from Kpler showed.
At the Gorgon facility, exports are currently estimated at just over 1 million tons for September, about 30% lower than August, Kpler data showed.
(Reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore and Lewis Jackson in Sydney, additional reporting by Emily Chow in Singapore and Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; Editing by Stephen Coates and Kim Coghill)