A subsidiary of building and construction giant Leighton Holdings has bagged a $1.8 billion dollar contract on one of the largest resource development projects in Australia.

Last week, Brisbane based gas producer QGC, a subsidiary of UK energy producer BG Group, announced it had awarded Leighton subsidiary Thiess a $1.8 billion contract to build 18 field compression stations and four central processing plants in the Surat Basin east of Brisbane to service the energy producer’s $20.4 billion Curtis LNG Plant Project off Queensland’s central coast.

The facilities will process gas which will then be transported through an underground pipeline network to Curtis Island near Gladstone on Queensland’s central coast, where the gas will be liquefied before being exported.

The stations are part of the broader project which QCG claims will be the world’s first to turn gas from coal seams (coal seam gas, or CSG) into liquefied natural gas, and will supply markets in China, Japan, Chile, Singapore and Eastern Australia.

All told, no fewer than 12,000 people are working on the development, which started commenced in 2010 and is expected to deliver its first exports in 2014.

With its latest contract, Thiess will expand its workforce on the project from 1,000 now to 2,600 by early 2014 as the contractor undertakes all civil, mechanical, piping, instrument and electrical work in constructing and pre-commissioning the facilities.

Though the latest contract comes amid doubts about the near-term future of the resources sector, many in the industry remain optimistic about energy projects and LNG.

Leighton Holdings chief executive officer Tyrwhitt Hamish says the new contract underscores the extent of opportunities for the Group amid an enormous volume of investment going into new CSG fields and LNG capacity, and that the Group – which has 108 mining and resource projects either completed or in process and previously built six substations, three field auxiliary rooms and one combined substation/field auxiliary room for Woodside’s Pluto LNG Project in Western Australia over an eighteen month period ending January 2010 – would be able to leverage a wealth of expertise in this area.

“Our operating companies have developed a high degree of competency in delivering essential infrastructure for these large resources projects and in the future, we will look to export those core capabilities into new geographies as other LNG and CSG opportunities emerge,” Hamish said.

QCLNG project director Mitch Ingram says the signing of the contract represented a significant project milestone and that the latest work includes a plan to ensure local workers have access to job and training opportunities and would also provide opportunities for local contractors to supply associated services.

Ingram says 64 per cent of the $14.9 billion thus far invested in the program has gone to Queensland firms.