Ray Crawshaw is an engineer who currently works in the mining industry in Australia. He is also an Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) alumnus, having studied our Advanced Diploma of Applied Electrical Engineering and our Master of Engineering (Industrial Automation).
Ray has spent his working life pursuing more practical and hands-on jobs and has filled a plethora of roles in several countries and regions. He truly has had a decorated career, with 35 years of experience in the oil & gas, power generation, and mining sectors. Later on in his career, Ray looked to add higher education qualifications to his resume, further building upon his skills and technical knowledge. Nearing retirement age is not slowing Ray down — he is more determined and hungry for growth in his academic and working career than ever before.
A son of a farmer, Ray went to school in a country farming region in New Zealand. When he was 11 years old, his father tragically passed. In 1966, he started living on his uncle’s farm. His uncle encouraged him to take up a trade so that he could find work.
Ray applied for a job as an electrician and was soon employed by a power supply authority in New Zealand. He started as a substation cadet. Ray ended up spending eight years with the Bay of Islands Electric Power Trust (now known as Top Energy). There, he earned a trade certificate in the first two years of his four-year apprenticeship. He still, however, had to complete the 8,000 required hours.
In 1978, Ray moved to Australia for work, which saw him fulfilling an altogether different role. He became a fireman on a train that transported freshly cut sugarcane. A year later, he went back to New Zealand for Christmas and incidentally met his future wife.
Six months later, Ray was married and began working for New Zealand’s only oil refinery, Marsden Point Oil Refinery. Refining NZ, the company that operated the refinery, was spending several billions of dollars upgrading it. He spent two years on the refinery, saving money to buy a house for his family, which was soon to grow.
Back in his hometown, Ray decided to start a business that sold whiteware, such as fridges and stoves. His wife oversaw the operations of the store.
Ray began to do commercial and domestic contracting work. His industrial experience, however, took precedence and saw him constructing mills in the north of New Zealand. Along with a crew of 50, they ran the project from start to finish. Ray then returned to contracting himself out to dairy farmers and abattoirs.
Chasing the boom
Ray and his wife flew to Australia for Christmas in 2007. Looking for a change of scenery, they decided to pursue opportunities during Australia’s mining boom. He was soon working on the electrical systems on a plethora of mines in Australia.
Due to his years of experience, Ray was promoted to supervisor and superintendent roles on the mines. He then was head-hunted while working at one of the mines, which allowed Ray to pivot to the oil and gas industry. He became a construction area manager on Gorgon Barrow Island’s LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) Plant for a company named Leighton Contractors Oil and Gas. It was the largest LNG plant in the world built at the time; 10,000 people were employed to work on the project, and it cost a total of 60 billion dollars (AUD). Ray was the area construction manager that laid four million kilometers of cable.
A year and a half later, Ray began work for ConocoPhillips — an American oil and gas company — on their Gladstone Curtis Island site in Queensland, Australia. He worked as a Programs Completion Manager working on their LNG project. Soon he was flown out to work on another project, this time for Chevron back at Barrow Island Gorgon.
There was no doubt at this point that Ray was an engineering professional in all sense of the word. However, Ray himself had an overwhelming feeling that he was missing that formalized ‘Professional Engineer’ recognition. He set out to find a way he could become a professional engineer while continuing to work.
The EIT connection
“Since leaving school, I hadn’t done any formal education for over nearly forty years. I just had the trade certificate. I had a lot of experience over the years, had run my own business, and had been in many high profile positions. But, I didn’t have any qualifications to back it up,” Ray said.
In the year that Ray began work on Gorgon Barrow Island in 2012, he enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Applied Electrical Engineering with EIT, finishing it in the year 2014. Witnessing the encroachment of technology into the engineering disciplines he was interested in, he wondered if he should become more skilled in automation.
Ray had already worked for Chevron for a year when he enrolled in our Master of Engineering (Industrial Automation). He seamlessly integrated what he was doing at work into his thesis for EIT. He became the E&I area construction manager overseeing the construction and pre-commissioning of engineering equipment crucial to the LNG operations on those projects.
“At Chevron, they were testing the gas wells for mercury, and they thought they aligned with international standards, but by the time it got to the plant itself, the mercury levels were a lot higher than the standards,” Ray explained. As a construction manager, he was given the task to go into the plant and install online mercury analyzing equipment. The master’s studies came into good use — Ray found he could consolidate what he was learning in his automation studies to find a more efficient way of detecting mercury levels.
“I thought there must have been a better, less expensive way of testing mercury levels. Using modern technology, I looked into what we could devise that could help us analyze. We ended up using electric devices that would use surface acoustic waves for measuring mercury. And since the master’s with EIT was to do with automation and control, I had to use my knowledge of PLCs and SCADA and HMI. So I correlated the thesis with the work I was doing there.”
Beginning the golden years
Ray entered his sixties in 2017 and was as hungry as ever to continue working in the world of engineering. After he finished at Chevron, he found it was harder and harder to get work — he couldn’t find a job for ten months. As a consequence, he began looking for work overseas, hoping a company might see the benefit of his immense experience.
He managed to snag a job as an LNG plant commissioning manager in San Antonio, Texas, in the United States for a company named BHGE. The job saw him being ported to Port Harcourt in Nigeria as well — a region that was going through a civil war at the time. After a year and a month of working in that role, he moved back to Australia.
In Western Australia, Ray found work again. This time as a project manager for Synergy, Western Australia’s leading provider of electricity and gas. He oversaw projects at the Mungarra Gas Turbine Power Station and the building of Black Start generator for a GE Gas Turbine that supplied the Western Power grid. He was highly lauded in the position and given an award for delivering it on time and under budget.
Ray is currently working at Fortescue Metals Group Mine, a global leader in the iron ore industry. He is working as a construction and commissioning manager on-site, building mining hoppers and shifting them from location to location. He is on-site for three weeks at a time as he is employed on a FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) basis. Ray’s contribution to the engineering world has been invaluable.
“Considering my age, the two qualifications I received through EIT did enhance my career in terms of positions and employment — not only in Australia, but overseas as well. I recommend for anyone to do qualifications with EIT because the online delivery mode is utterly convenient,” Ray said.
“Now, with EIT offering a doctorate, I might consider doing it. I will be nearly seventy by the time I finish,” he laughed. “But it would be worth it.”