Copy of Sarah Harris Long

The Commissioning Lead at Arcadia Facilities (Santos)


Q: Where are you based?

A: Currently out of our Brisbane office, but soon to be back on a roster (FIFO) working from the Arcadia Valley (2.5hrs north of Roma).


Q: Can you explain what your role entails?

A: I am responsible for leading a team of people to commission (turn-on for the first time) a brand-new 80TJ/d gas compression facility.  At my facility we extract natural gas from the neighbouring area, compress the molecules of gas to a high pressure, dehydrate it to remove all the water that could damage our systems, and transport it in a pipeline to our LNG facilities at Gladstone.

My role in this is to ensure we start up all our new equipment safely and efficiently so that we can start full-time operations. This involves planning and coordination of activities, overseeing a team of Santos staff and our many vendors in the field, troubleshooting problems and escalating issues.


Q: What sparked your interest to work in the resources sector?

A: I didn’t study engineering knowing I specifically wanted to work in the resources sector. I did a number of work experiences throughout my undergraduate studies, in mining and minerals, and nanotechnology and finally oil and gas. I found that I loved my time in oil and gas as I was passionate about opportunities to work onsite where ‘the action happens’. I also saw that this career would have a massive part to play in the energy make up for Australia and the world’s future. It was exciting, constantly evolving and had a vast number of different directions I could take my career in.


Q: Was there someone/something that inspired you to pursue your current career?

A: I was always incredibly passionate about Science through my secondary schooling. I loved Science but I also knew quite early on that being a scientist or a researcher wasn’t for me. I always saw Engineering however as the practical application of Science. The ability to use science concepts, but for problem-solving, to fix challenges, and to improve the world around us. That’s what got me into studying engineering. I could see a practical way to implement what I was using in the real world, a way to follow through my concepts from problem to solution.


Q: Can you explain the pathway you took to your current job?

A: At high school the main subjects I needed were Maths and Science. I used these to study a Double Degree in Chemical Engineering (with Honours) and Science, specialising in Biotechnology. I only really use the engineering part of my degree in my job, but I was always fascinated by science and wanted to study this as well to continue my love of learning.

I did a number of different work experiences while I was studying at university; from mining and minerals, to nanotechnology and finally oil and gas. I really enjoyed oil and gas and so I started out of University with Santos in their Adelaide office as a process engineer.

From there I moved into process safety role for a liquids processing facility, Port Bonython.  I was dreaming up scenarios of all the possible things that could go wrong, or had gone wrong in the past, and analysing the risk levels, and the validity of any controls we had in place to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future. Most importantly it allowed us to identify where our weaknesses were, where we had elevated risk and needed more controls to be implemented. I loved working closely with the field, the communications and facilitation side of my role as well as analysing risk.

From there I moved to Queensland and took a role as Operations Engineer for our upstream assets Scotia and Arcadia, both a few hours out of Roma. I was the line of contact between our operators in the field and the engineering teams in the office. Problem-solving day to day to keep our equipment online, planning maintenance activities, looking for efficiencies and optimising production.

Finally, I’ve moved into our development teams having been involved in commissioning a new facility at Scotia and now leading the commissioning team for Arcadia.


Q: What challenges do you face in your job?

A: Turning something on for the first time has a LOT of challenges. You are making different equipment that has been designed and built all over the world function together for the first time. From mechanical equipment like compressors to electrical switch-rooms and control systems, there are a lot of issues not picked up in the design process that need to be solved during commissioning.


Q: What do you enjoy about your job?

A: Spending time in the field. Being out where the action happens, talking to people executing the work and seeing a finished project come together. Making decisions and being accountable. Having to solve problems with limited resources available and make the situation work. High intensity and stressful work, but incredibly rewarding to see your teams hard work pay off. Sometimes that hard work pays off big time, I was recently named Queensland’s Exceptional Young Woman in Resources, and now have an incredible opportunity to start completing my Masters of Business Administration thanks to the Australian Institute of Management and the Queensland Resources Council.


Q: What has been your experience being a female employed in the resources sector?

A: I’ve certainly had some mixed experiences as a female working in some very male-dominated field based roles. I’ve had lots of incredibly supportive peers and mentors, male and female, throughout my journey. I’ve also been given some incredible opportunities aimed at engaging female representation. I’ve also faced adversity, but I try to take the difficult and negative conversations and turn them into a positive discussion around gender stereotypes and prejudice within our industry and workplaces.


Q: If there was one key message that you would leave with students considering a career in the resources sector, what would it be?

A: My advice would be to learn as much as you can about what the resources sector really does, it will very likely surprise you how much of an integral role it has in creating value for our economy as well as providing the raw materials to support your every-day life. If you’re looking for challenges and rewarding career opportunities, the resources sector has them in spades.

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