As one of the most experienced welders in the Australian pipeline industry, Bob Papp has made his mark on some of the country’s biggest pipelines and set a pipe welding record with his lifelong colleague and friend Fred Verna on the Roma to Brisbane Pipeline.
Bob was born in Hungary and emigrated to Australia in 1957. He was qualified as a boilermaker and welder and started work in Australia with Humes on the Snowy Mountains Jindabyne Project.
In 1961, Bob moved to Queensland, and in 1963 tested as a welder for the Bechtel Pacific Corporation on the Moonie to Brisbane Oil Pipeline.
Bob recalls that it was on that project that he met a man named Ken de Shane, who founded the company East Coast Pipelines. Bob also had a lot to do with Ron Nicholas, who of course was the main man behind Red Ru Pipelines.
Following the completion of that pipeline, Bob remained in the industry, and worked for a contractor on a number of projects, including the Civil Petro Chemical Project, the Brisbane River Crossing, the subsea pipeline to Botany Bay for ICI, as well as the Barrow Island Project in Western Australia.
Bob recalls “In 1968, I worked on the Roma to Brisbane Gas Pipeline where I met and worked with Fred Verna. We took over from the Canadian welders at the front and set the record for number of pipes welded together. We have stayed friends right up until today.”
After the Roma to Brisbane Pipeline, Bob headed to Victoria for five weeks and worked for APC and Carter Johnson, both in Gippsland and on the WAG Pipeline.
Bob says “I never went back to Queensland to live – five weeks in Victoria turned into 44 years!”
Bob recalls that he also worked on many pipeline projects for Snamprogetti. These pipelines included the Moomba to Adelaide, Mooma to Sydney, Moomba to Stony Point, the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline, and the Goldfields Gas Pipeline.
From there Bob spent 14 years with McConnell Dowell, which involved working on the Moomba Gas Field and the Amadeus to Darwin Pipeline, as well as working in Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Malaysia, and many smaller pipelines.
Over decades Bob and Fred worked together, including projects such as Moomba to Stony Point, Bendigo to Ballarat, the WAG Pipeline, as well as a few smaller pipe projects. “We sometimes had disagreements, but at the end of the day everything was always fine and we’d go have a beer – tomorrow was another day. We have been friends for a long time, which speaks for itself,” says Bob.
Bob notes “Good technical assistants (TAs) are very important to have and are also very hard to replace as they know exactly what you want and what you need for a day’s work.
“I had Alex Medok as a TA for 14 years. He knew what to do, what I wanted, and also had a good nature. Sadly, I miss him as a friend and companion.”
Bob reflects on his time in the industry, relishing how things were in the old days of pipelining.
“I have lots of good memories from the pipeline industry, mainly from the old days, when rules and regulations were not so strict. We had singing competitions, boxing, sparring, wrestling, and gambling every night in the front of the dining room. We worked hard and we played hard – everything you can’t do today! Times have changed.
“I am semi-retired, and I spend my time around the house, gardening, doing lots of walking and exercise, and going on holidays. It takes some time to get used to a different lifestyle and I do miss the pipelines,” says Bob.
“I have enjoyed being part of the pipeline industry for all those years as a welder, around Australia and overseas.
“I remember fondly all the people I worked with over my 47 years in the industry. Pipeliners are wonderful people – just a little bit different.”