After years of studies into the transport of ethane and other hydrocarbons from the Moomba area to a proposed petrochemical plant at Redcliff it was announced in October 1980, by the then South Australian Premier David Tonkin, that Dow Chemical Corporation did not intend to proceed with the Redcliff project. The giant Japanese Company Mitsui Corporation showed continued interest but eventually all hope for a petrochemical plant at Redcliff died.
Engineers Kinhill Bechtel were then asked to study the possibilities for piping liquids and possibly ethane either to the Port Stanvac refinery 25 km south of Adelaide or to Stony Point, a virgin site on the Spencer Gulf.
As a result of this study, Stony Point was chosen as the pipeline terminal. The study also found that a single, multi phase pipeline was the best option. The decision by the Federal Government to allow the producers to export liquefied petroleum gas was the catalyst for the entire
$800 million liquids project to proceed. The marketable products would include oil and gas field condensate and possibly ethane and liquefied propane and butane.
The Stony Point liquids pipeline was to be the third pipeline built from Moomba. The first had been the 781 km pipeline of 550 mm diameter built in 1968-69 to transport gas to Adelaide. This was followed in 1974-75 with the 1,350 km, 750 mm diameter gas pipeline to Sydney.
These markets were initially supplied from dry gas wells then wet wells were brought into production to meet demand. This meant that the liquids removed from the wet wells needed a market and thus a third pipeline was required.
On 24 June 1981 the then SA Minister for Mines and Energy Roger Goldsworthy announced that the pipeline would be built by Santos Ltd and not the Pipelines Authority of South Australia (PASA) as originally planned. Lack of government funds was cited as the reason. PASA would continue to act as agent for the producers during construction. PASA still owned and controlled the right of way easement and assisted Santos in the general management of construction and would be responsible for maintaining the pipeline and associated facilities once construction was finished.
Grant Bowley cut his teeth on this pipeline after being recently employed at PASA by Stephen Timms. Grant was on a plane to Moomba looking for a route for the pipeline immediately on joining PASA. Grant said it was his first introduction to long distance transmission pipelines and was where he met many Pipeliners, including the legendary late Don Hamlyn.
The Minister also announced that Santos had ordered pipe from both Australian and Japanese steel mills and was expected to call for tenders for construction by the end of 1981, with construction to start in early 1982 and an expected completion in early 1983.
Engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) was to be carried out a by Bechtel-Kinhill Joint Venture. Construction of the pipeline would involve approximately 660 km of 350 mm (14 inch) diameter pipeline from Moomba to Stony Point. The coating was an over the ditch wrapping with a double tape. The $2 million contract for the Polyken tape was won by Mole Engineering. The contract also included the supply of 60,000 litres of primer liquid.
The environmental approval for the project was expected by the end of September 1981. By late 1981 tenders for construction had closed and Red Ru Pipeline Construction Company, McConnell Dowell, Saipem and a Techint joint venture were believed to be amongst the bidders. Red Ru and Saipem were the two favourites to take out the contract.
In the October 1981 edition of Pipeline Construction it was reported that Saipem had been awarded the contract. It also reported that Ron Nicholas, Red Ru’s Managing Director, was far from happy with the contract going to Saipem. He was so angry that he reportedly telexed, among others, the Cooper Basin partners, the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia to complain about what he considered to be a very raw deal for his company.
The SA government gave environmental approval for the project in late 1981 and this signalled the go ahead for the whole project, including a fractional plant, storage and wharf facilities and the pipeline. It also led to the award of contracts with Davy McKee Pacific Pty Ltd winning the major project management contract including the processing works at both Moomba and Stony Point. Royal Netherlands Harbourworks Company and Clough Engineering won the contract for the design and construction of a 2.4 km jetty and associated wharf facilities, and Chicago Bridge as awarded the contract for the construction of eight tanks to store crude oil, condensate and LPG at Stony Point.
Saipem commenced principal pipeline construction works in early February 1982 and by mid-April, 119 km of pipe had been welded, wrapped and buried
The construction cycle involved periods of twenty-eight days of pipelaying, followed by periods of seven days, during which Saipem moved the 250 man camp approximately 100 km. Maximum daily progress was just over 5 km, with many good days when progress of 4.5 km or more was achieved.
Following the backfill operation, the pipeline was progressively filled with water and hydrostatically tested. As water was scarce at Moomba, the maximum daily rate available was 500 cubic metres, which filled the pipe at a rate of 5 km per day.
Major earthworks, including clearing and grading, some ditching and backfill were carried out by South Australian subcontractor Macmahon Construction Pty Ltd.
Construction moved along with very little interruption. Saipem Australia completed construction of the 660 km pipeline ahead of schedule with the laying of the last section being attended by Premier Tonkin on Tuesday 19 October 1982. Saipem moved straight off this project to start work on the Dampier to Perth natural gas pipeline.