Diverse challenges overcome in central Australia

The 200 mm diameter, X70 steel Jackson to Moomba Oil Pipeline is a continuation of Santos’ expansion of the Jackson and Tarbat oil fields, located in the remote Cooper Basin. The pipeline was buried at a depth of 1.2 m, except for risers, mainline valves, scraper stations and a mid-line pigging station to remove slugs.

Santos Project Manager Philip Dunn said “This pipeline has provided a critical link in connecting the Tarbat and Jackson oil fields in southwest Queensland to Moomba and then onto our export facility at Port Bonython.”

Diversified has undertaken a number of pipeline projects for Santos in the Cooper Basin, including the expansion of the Jackson and Tarbat oil fields with the installation of the 130 km Tarbat to Jackson Pipeline, gathering lines and various facilities.

Mr Dunn said “I think one of the strengths that Diversified was able to demonstrate was their ability to plan the work and to quickly adapt to difficult situations as they arose during construction. They were able to use their initiative on several occasions to keep the project on track and to meet the challenging construction schedule.”

Challenges in the pipeline

The Cooper Basin area is characterised by harsh conditions, such as the Wilson River flood plains, rain, rolling sand dunes and searing mid-summer heat. Workers were exposed to temperatures of up to 57 degrees Celsius. In addition, the pipeline route was also traversed by a number of operational oil and gas pipelines.

Because of this, Diversified said that there were a number of engineering challenges that the project had to overcome. Numerous skips in construction were made due to cultural heritage issues, unknown underground services and right of way access problems. Diversified said that delays because of these activities were kept to a minimum by the project team’s good schedule management.

Rain and flooding were overcome by constructing the pipeline in certain risk areas out of sequence, which meant that there was minimal disruption to the project during the rain season.

The reinstatement of huge sand dunes and river crossings were required. These environmental challenges were handled by proficient and caring personnel in close liaison with various local groups and project proponent Santos.

Facilitating in remote areas

The remote location of the project also meant that Diversified had to overcome challenges such as moving personnel into the area, chartering flights and driving long distances over rough roads. Vehicles used on the project travelled almost one million kilometres during the construction of the pipeline. An “˜In Vehicle Monitoring System’ was used to promote good and safe driving habits.

When starting on the pipeline project, there was a lack of camp facilities to house employees working on the project. An existing camp at Jackson could house 120 employees, but a new camp was needed to meet the considerable resource requirements of the project. Diversified located its own accommodation facilities at strategic points along the pipeline route. This was critical to ensuring crews reduced the time taken to move between locations.

Diversified bought and installed its own camp at Epsilon, 130 km along the route to Moomba, which provided a modern facility with ensuites in all rooms, excellent catering and a recreation room. The 160-person Epsilon camp was mobilised and established in a record three weeks and has been acknowledged as the best by the Jackson to Moomba pipeline workforce.

In addition, facilities at Dullingari, Moomba and a fly camp at Ashby, were used for small crews associated with survey work, clear and grade, reinstatement and hydrostatic testing activities.

Diversified said that the camp system used on the Jackson to Moomba spread gave great flexibility and allowed the project to be completed on time.

The remote location also meant that equipment had to be maintained in an excellent condition, and this was achieved throughout the duration of the project. The delivery of materials also had to be co-ordinated very well, with employees onsite, Diversified’s head office purchasing department and transport sub-contractors all working together to achieve optimal results.

At the project’s peak, Diversified had 190 employees on site. To ensure the safety of this large workforce, Diversified said that a Project Safety Plan was drawn up at the start of the project. The plan, independently certified to AS4801 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, identified specific areas of safety concern, for example heat stress and driver fatigue. These were addressed on a daily basis with suitable training and agreed procedures enforced. As a result, no lost time injuries were experienced during the construction of the project, despite the tough conditions and number of people on site.

Offsetting emissions

Not only did Diversified commit to the construction of the pipeline, but also to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the pipeline project.

Diversified Systems and Environmental Manager David Williams said “Diversified has commissioned Green Fleet, they’re a national not-for-profit organisation, to plant in excess of 16,000 native species trees in 2009. These trees will be planted in Queensland. These specific trees will have many ecological benefits such as carbon sequestration, habitat creation and native species regrowth.”

It was estimated that 4,380 tonnes of greenhouse gases were emitted in constructing the pipeline by examining aspects of Diversified’s fuel usage and other associated construction activities.

Mr Williams said “We’re further working with Green Fleet to enhance measuring systems for carbon emissions of construction type projects.”

What’s next on the cards for Diversified?

Diversified is expected to complete the construction of the 115 km gas pipeline running from Berwyndale to Wallumbilla for AGL Energy in January.

In addition to this, the company has expanded its business into the construction of water pipelines. The company has secured contracts with the Gladstone Area Water Board and LinkWater for the construction of their respective Gladstone to Fitzroy Pipeline and Wivenhoe to Toowoomba Pipeline, both located in Queensland.

While the company said that the construction techniques are essentially the same, the design of water pipelines differs to that of gas and oil pipelines.

In addition, major water pipelines tend to be in different areas than oil and gas pipelines. Terrain is less likely to be desert-like, as in the case of the Cooper Basin. Instead, water pipelines are often built in urban areas, as well as areas with more ground water and possibly more rainfall during construction.

Diversified is looking forward to and is confident in its ability to complete many water pipelines, as well as oil and gas, in the future.

Diversified Chief Executive Officer Rod Bailey said “Our history in putting together pipeline projects safely from design to construction to testing and commissioning is what really sets us apart. Our technical ability and state-of-the-art machinery together of course with our team of highly skilled people and our commitment to getting the job done right, gives us the edge in creating value for every project that we undertake.”

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