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2015: Land management procedures during QLD’s pipeline boom

The three major LNG pipelines that are now commissioned in Queensland have changed the face of the gas industry in Australia.

The unprecedented size and scale of pipelines associated with the Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) Project, the Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) Project and the Gladstone LNG (GLNG) Project, as well as other concurrent pipeline construction projects in Queensland, means world-first precedents have been set in construction, not only in size, but also in the process of turning coal seam gas (CSG) into LNG.

Along with the three major pipelines, numerous lateral pipelines have fanned out over the Surat and Bowen Basins to feed CSG into the processing facilities on Curtis Island, Gladstone.

It is because of the massive size and public attention on these projects that environmental and land management was such an important factor.

As part of every construction project, environmental and land management contractors are engaged to ensure that the recommended processes are followed, particularly important in the highly-scrutinised oil and gas industries.

The Australian Pipeliner spoke to Amec Foster Wheeler (who acquired Unidel in 2012), Ecology and Heritage Partners and Maloney Field Services, three companies who were involved in the environmental and land management processes which preceded the construction of Queensland’s CSG-to-LNG pipeline network.

Exploring the different aspects of environmental and land management, this article will provide an overview of the scope of work necessary before construction begins.

Fauna exit ramps on the QGP Expansion Project.

Land Access

Securing access to land for pipeline construction and maintaining relationships with landholders through and beyond construction activities has required a more strategic and focused engagement and negotiation process.

Projects of this size and complexity involve many hundreds of stakeholders both internal and external.

Maloney Field Services was one of the companies involved in the land management on three of the major pipelines in Queensland: the GLNG Pipeline, the QCLNG Pipeline and the Arrow Bowen Pipeline.

Maloney’s main services included:

  • Route selection;
  • Landholder liaison and stakeholder/community consultation;
  • Easement negotiation/route selection;
  • Assessments of compensation; and,
  • Monitoring and management of all access to land.

According to Maloney, many of the properties impacted operated high value enterprises and therefore the management of access to land was critical in minimising impacts to these businesses and maintaining honest and respectful relationships with landholders and occupiers. It was also critical to ensure compensation impacts were adequately assessed by professional valuers and agronomists where required.

It was also the case that these pipeline projects were being developed at a time of increased tension between the resources sector and the agricultural sector, which therefore necessitated a professional, experienced and skilled approach to land access negotiations.

Amec Foster Wheeler was also involved in land management and access negotiations for Queensland’s CSG-to-LNG pipelines as well as the associated upstream developments.

The company’s goal was to secure access to land for pipeline construction, meanwhile maintaining relationships with landholders through and beyond construction activities.

Amec Foster Wheeler points out that this has required a more strategic and focused engagement and negotiation process.

According to Amec Foster Wheeler, there are four main aspects to consider in managing land access.

  1. Early consultation is critical to the development of productive relationships

Early landholder involvement in the development of a pipeline alignment is critical to ensuring the project progresses smoothly.

Given their connection to the land, landholders often have perceived large-scale development as a violation of their rights.

Combine these concerns with the fact that most jurisdictions provide a legislative right to construct and operate pipeline infrastructure and landholders may feel anxious, overwhelmed and disenfranchised.

Involving the landholder from the initial alignment design process attempts to right this perceived power imbalance and provides a level of ‘buy-in’ form the landholder as they have had an opportunity to influence the final outcome.

The value of a landholder’s local knowledge should also not be underestimated.  There have been many occasions when a landholder’s knowledge of the land, community and infrastructure (present or proposed) has saved significant time and effort in settling a pipeline alignment.

  1. ‘Engagement fatigue’

‘Engagement fatigue’ refers to landholders who balance the requirements of multiple infrastructure proposals, with similar development timetables whilst also maintaining their own agricultural business.

In those instances successful landholder engagement necessitated an acknowledgement of the imposition on their time.

This acknowledgement is not necessarily monetary, but rather a consideration of the potential impacts the project may have on a landholder.

Simplifying the process, by co-ordinating joint site inspections for company and contractor representatives, coordinating with non-pipeline divisions and other developers where possible, helps to remove unnecessary engagement.

  1. Stick to the rules

Whilst not new to most in the pipelining industry, behavioural compliance with agreed access protocols is a continuing issue for landholders.

With many landholders developing increased understanding of contractual rights and increased involvement of legal representatives, non-compliances have come under increasing focus as landholders threaten to lock contractors out or shut down whole construction fronts for breaches (perceived or otherwise).

Moreover, with multiple pipelines proposed upon many landholders’ properties the ‘sins’ of one proponent or constructor on occasion may become a significant negotiation stumbling block for subsequent development.

This is not to suggest that protocols are being deliberately contravened however despite the best intentions of all, issues can and do arise and this is generally acknowledged by most landholders.

While the occurrence of these non-compliances will significantly influence the relationship with the landholder, so will the company’s response to any non-compliance.

  1. Take a pragmatic and commercial position when developing compensation regimes and access agreements

 Good landholder relations will only get a proponent so far when seeking to secure land access agreements.

Pipeline proponents should acknowledge the fact that the pipeline development, construction and to a lesser extent operations are generally an inconvenience and uninvited distraction to landholders.

Inevitably the sticking points in most negotiations centres around the payment the landholder is to receive for the access agreement (usually the right to register an easement on the land’s title) or the terms of the access agreement.

When it comes to access agreements, genuine consideration needs to be given to the readability of these documents and the appropriate apportionment of obligations and liabilities.

Protecting the environment

The remote nature of the various pipelines in Queensland proved to be a major factor for companies engaging in land and environmental management.

Ecology and Heritage Partners (EH Partners) was involved in the Queensland Gas Pipeline (QGP) Expansion Project – Stage 2 Looping, on behalf of Jemena Pty Ltd, where the nearest accommodation for its workers was 45 minutes away in Rolleston, QLD.

EH Partners was engaged by Jemena to assist with the overseeing of environmental procedures, management guidelines and legislations set out by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) and Environment Protection Act 1994.

The project consisted of a 35.4 km pipeline looping between the Arcadia Valley and the existing Rolleston Compressor Station.

Given the remote nature of the site, the bulk of stakeholder engagement for environmental matters was approved via specific permit conditions under the EP Act 1994 prior to project commencement.

Weed and animal management

The spread of weeds was a key concern for the QGP Expansion Project –Stage 2 Looping, given that several crews were working at any one time across multiple landowners’ properties.

The management of biosecurity was managed via remote wash down bays at the edge of each property boundary which required each vehicle or item of plant to be washed down when in contact with topsoil.

This process was recorded in a log-book and audited by construction contractor Lucas environmental staff daily.

A permanent wash-down bay was located at camp in which all vehicles entering the site were washed down and provided with an approved ‘weed hygiene declaration certificate’ to access the site.

Given the rapid progress of trenching as part of the project, the requirement to undertake morning trench inspections and the relocation of multiple animals was also challenging.

To meet the needs of the construction team’s progress, several Lucas staff outside the environment team volunteered to spot animals in the trenches in which a spotter/catcher would be contacted.

Additionally, as there was multiple staff working in proximity to the trench, any animals which entered the trench after the inspection would be immediately reported to the spotter/catchers throughout the day to ensure animals were safely relocated without harm.

Rehabilitation works were also challenging with project timelines and varying landholder requirements (i.e. preferred seed mixtures for rehabilitation), this was managed by developing individual plans for each landholder and undertaking regular meetings where any concerns or questions could be referred back to the Jemena and Lucas project managers and addressed accordingly to ensure all needs were met.

This article was featured in the April 2015 edition of The Australian Pipeliner

If you have news you would like featured in The Australian Pipeliner contact Managing Editor David Convery at dconvery@gs-press.com.au

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