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South Australia – at the heart of Australia’s pipeline industry

In the last two decades, South Australia has experienced unprecedented growth in its gas transmission industry. The completion of the QSN Link Project and SEA Gas Pipeline, as well as the gas-rich reserves of the Cooper Basin has enabled huge opportunities for Australia’s pipeline industry. The Australian Pipeliner looks at the companies which have helped to facilitate this growth.

Michael Malavazos, Chief Engineer of the Petroleum and Geothermal Group, Minerals and Energy Resources in the Department of Primary Industries and Resources of SA (PIRSA), says that the QSN Link and SEA Gas Pipeline have enhanced South Australia’s security of gas supply, which has added additional competitive gas supplies to an already competitive gas market.

“From SA’s point of view, these developments have been instrumental for keeping gas prices competitive and for security of supply,” he says. “We no longer depend solely on the Moomba to Adelaide Pipeline to keep the state’s gas supply secure.”

In addition to this, Mr Malavazos believes the pipeline industry will become a key player in the next 20 years due to SA’s plentiful supply of gas.

“Gas is certainly going to form the foundation of Australia’s energy mix in the foreseeable future in maybe one, two, three, four decades time, and, because of this, the pipeline industry is going to be of paramount importance.” (To read the full interview with Mr Malavazos, click here.)

The accomplishments and contributions of some of the companies which have been or will be key to the growth of the pipeline industry in SA are outlined below.

Epic influence in SA

As one of Australia’s largest gas transmission companies, Epic Energy has been instrumental in the economic development of SA through its investment in the state’s natural gas transmission infrastructure.

Epic Energy traces its roots back to the construction in the late 1960s of the Moomba to Adelaide Pipeline System (MAPS) and associated laterals. Epic owns and operates 1,197 km of pipelines in SA and operates and maintains the Santos-owned Moomba to Port Bonython Liquids Pipeline.

Constructed in 1969, the 781 km MAPS was one of the first high-pressure gas transmission pipelines to be built in Australia, and the first to bring gas to the Adelaide market. Today, its reach extends to Port Pirie, Whyalla and Angaston and it also supplies gas to several power stations located in Adelaide and the mid-north, and various offtakes to industrial and mining companies.

Between 1972 and 1980, seven compressor stations were added to the MAPS. The southern section of the mainline was duplicated in 1986 in order to provide increased security of gas supply to Adelaide and to improve peak load capability.

Major upgrades of the MAPS were carried out during 1999 and 2000 to meet the growing requirements for peak electricity generation capacity in SA. Existing compressor units at four compressor stations were enhanced, replaced or reconfigured, the northern section of the pipeline between Compressor Stations 1 and 4 was looped, and a new compressor station was constructed at Wasleys.

As part of its continuous pipeline integrity program, all of Epic Energy’s MAPS were intelligently pigged during 2010-11.

The MAPS is now strategically positioned to further support the development of industry in the Whyalla and Port Pirie regions, as well as supporting new mining opportunities in northern SA.

Epic recently completed the QSN Link between the South West Queensland Pipeline (SWQP) and the MAPS in 2009, which, for the first time, allowed coal seam gas from south eastern Queensland to enter the SA market and to supplement declining Cooper Basin production.

Currently, Epic’s major pipeline project is the 935 km looping expansion of the SWQP and QSN Link, with 450 mm nominal diameter steel pipe, dubbed the QSN 3 project. This project is in the final stages of construction by Epic’s construction contractor NACAP. The QSN 3 project also involves an expansion of Epic’s Wallumbilla compression facility, which is being constructed by Enerflex.

When completed, the QSN 3 project will increase the gas transportation capacity of the SWQP and QSN Link to approximately 380 TJ/d.

Over the past ten years, the number of users on Epic’s pipelines has increased dramatically, reflecting the increased number of gas retailers and electricity retailers with gas-fired generation operating in SA and the contracting of major industrial customers.

With the decline of conventional Cooper Basin gas reserves and increasing demand for gas-fired generation, the completion of Epic’s SWQP expansion in 2012 will provide access to significant additional quantities of gas for SA, improving security of gas supply for the state.

Transporting a SEA of gas

The SEA Gas Pipeline is owned by South East Australia Gas (SEA Gas), which is currently jointly owned by APA Group and the Retail Employees Superannuation Trust. The company was established in 2001 by International Power and Origin Energy to answer the SA Government’s call for a second state gas supply source.

The SEA Gas Pipeline consists of the 687 km mainline, which connects Port Cambpell to Adelaide, and two laterals: the 11 km, 450 mm diameter PCA Lateral – or Western Underground Storage (WUGS) Lateral – which connects TRUenergy’s WUGS facility to the mainline, and the 11 km, 350 mm diameter Port Campbell to Iona Pipeline, which connects the Minerva gas field to the South West Pipeline.

The length of the mainline consists of 450 mm diameter X70 grade steel pipe, with the exception of twin 350 mm diameter pipes between the pipeline’s two compressor stations, which are located at Coombandook and Miakite.

The commissioning of the SEA Gas Pipeline in January 2004 was a significant milestone for SA. “[The pipeline has] basically increased basin-on-basin competition between gas suppliers from the surrounding Bowen, Cooper and Gippsland basins,” says Mr Malavazos.

In addition to this, the commissioning of the pipeline coincided with an explosion and disruption of supply from Santos’ Moomba gas processing facility.

SEA Gas General Manager Ashley Kellett says “Adelaide would have had little or no gas for weeks except for the fact that SEA Gas was able to deliver gas on that very day. We supplied approximately 80 per cent of the state’s needs for about three weeks. I do not know how the state could have coped without us, particularly given that at the time, some 60 per cent of power generation was from gas.” (Click here for the full interview with Mr Kellett.)

Developing gas in SA and beyond

While Santos is a well-known name within the oil, gas and pipeline industries, some may not be aware that the company made its first significant natural gas discovery in SA’s Cooper Basin with the Gidgealpa-2 well in 1963.

Santos – an acronym for South Australian Northern Territory Oil Search – has now extended its operations well beyond the SA and even Australian borders, with exploration and production activities in Asia. However, the company still owns a number of important pipeline assets in its home state.

In 1992, Santos completed construction of the Ballera to Moomba Pipeline. Natural gas liquids are recovered at Santos’ Ballera processing plant, and raw gas and condensate is sent to Santos’ Moomba facility through the 180 km, 400 mm diameter pipeline to allow additional recovery of liquids via a refrigeration process.

In addition to natural gas, Santos transports oil through SA. The 659 km, 355 mm diameter Moomba to Port Bonython Pipeline was constructed in 1984 and connects to the more recently completed Jackson to Moomba Oil Pipeline, which was commissioned in 2008.

The Jackson to Moomba Oil Pipeline is 273 km long with a 400 mm diameter, and its construction resolved the missing link in a major Australian oil pipeline network, connecting the Santos-owned 130 km Tarbat to Jackson oil pipeline in Queensland to Moomba at the Moomba to Port Bonython pipeline.

Santos continues to service the Australian domestic market through its pipeline infrastructure and development projects, supplying 16 per cent of the nation’s gas needs.

Surveying SA’s pipeline infrastructure

One of the biggest names in the SA pipeline industry is Fyfe, which started as a survey business 26 years ago by company founder Ross Fyfe.

Although initially the work was in the land subdivision area, Fyfe eventually became involved in oil and gas survey work in the Cooper Basin. In this period, Fyfe also acquired a survey company in Queensland and the Northern Territory and a civil engineering company, and now operates from more than ten locations in SA, the NT and QLD.

The major part of Fyfe’s business today is engineering and surveying in the Australian natural gas, CSG and oil industry. Fyfe became seriously involved in pipeline work when it was awarded the contract for initial pipeline survey work in 2001 by SEA Gas for the Minerva to Adelaide pipeline. The company was subsequently awarded the construction survey and detailed pipeline alignment drawing work by the Spie Capag Lucas joint venture, which was contracted to construct the pipeline.

Following completion of this work in 2003, Fyfe has become more involved in exploration activity for oil and gas in the Cooper Basin. By this time, Fyfe had established a process engineering capability and, as the exploration activity increased, Fyfe became involved in survey and wellhead design activities on more than 2,000 oil and gas wells in the Cooper Basin. Fyfe’s pipeline activities continued during this period with the design and survey of more 1,500 gathering lines and the design basis and approvals for the Tarbat to Jackson oil line, Fairview to Wallumbilla gas line and Jackson to Moomba oil line.

Although Fyfe, through its Queensland-acquired company MJ Hedges Geomeasure, has been working in the oil and gas industries around Roma for more than 40 years, the operation received a major boost this year when Fyfe was awarded the survey work for the Queensland Curtis LNG (QLNG) Project’s upstream development. Fyfe will be providing more than 25 survey teams over the next few years for this activity alone.

Engineering the SA pipeline industry

Founded in Adelaide in 1987, GPA Engineering is a highly experienced consulting engineering group providing engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services to Australia’s oil and gas industry.

Over 24 years, GPA has progressed from being a major supplier to Santos for the Cooper Basin to operating Australia-wide for Santos, Origin Energy, Beach Energy, Epic Energy, Envestra, SEA Gas and APA Group, as well as many others.

GPA Engineering is an experienced pipeline, surface facilities, water and mine process designer. One major pipeline project in SA for which GPA Engineering has provided EPCM services is the SEA Gas Pipeline.

GPA acted as the principal engineer in the development, modelling, design, specification, engineering management and commissioning of the SEA Gas Pipeline and its associated systems. In addition to the pipeline, three major delivery stations and two receipt stations, as well as the two gas turbine compressor stations, were constructed.

    GPA has also provided a range of services – from conceptual and feasibility studies and risk facilitation through to full EPCM – for SA pipeline projects including:

  • The Channel Island pipeline section replacement (2010);
  • The Hallet Power Station pipeline and gas supply (2006);
  • The Otway Plant meter station and connection (2004);
  • The South East South Australia (SESA) Pipeline (2004);
  • The Naracoorte natural gas supply (2004);
  • The MAPS, SWQP, SEPS and Port Hedland pipeline (2004);
  • The Torrens Island Power Station natural gas blending station (2003); and,
  • The Berri to Mildura Pipeline (1999).

Committing to SA

In 1970, Maloney Field Services commenced operations in SA, initially providing land access and property consulting services to the SA petroleum industry. Maloney has since expanded its services to a national scale, and will be able to apply to its future projects the knowledge and experience it has gained providing land access and valuation services to major SA pipelines, such as the MAPS.

One of Maloney’s recent projects is the 50 km SESA gas pipeline, which connects the SEA Gas Pipeline to the Katnook Power Station near Penola. Maloney provided land access, property advisory, easement acquisition and valuation services for this project.

Maloney provided the same services for the SEA Gas Pipeline, and is currently providing these services to the QSN 3 project.

Maloney is concurrently providing services to a number of significant pipeline projects in other Australian states including the 420 km GLNG Pipeline, the 125 km Comet Ridge to Wallumbilla Pipeline, and the 120 km Berwyndale to Wallumbilla Pipeline in Queensland, and the 100 km Mortlake Pipeline, 105 km Shaw River Pipeline in Victoria.

The company plans to expand further, and has committed to establish a presence in WA, continue its growth on the eastern sea board, and cement its position in SA where its head office is located.

Confronting encroachment

Although there have been many achievements in the SA pipeline industry, the growth of the state’s pipeline infrastructure is not without challenges.

“One of the key challenges the state’s pipeline industry is facing is access to land and encroachment, particularly with urban encroachment,” says Mr Malavazos. “Once upon a time, there wasn’t anybody or any infrastructure within a bull’s roar of the two key pipelines that feed this state; now all of a sudden there are new suburbs encroaching right on top of pipeline corridors.”

Pipeline operators need to continually be aware of threats to their assets, such as encroachment. However, considering the experience of the companies which have helped to build SA’s existing pipeline network, it would appear that the continued growth and prosperity of the state’s pipeline industry is in safe hands.

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