Learning from the experts: YPF experiences Northern Goldfields pipeline

Members of the YPF had the exciting opportunity to see the pipeline’s construction crews in action.

Members of the Young Pipeliners Forum had the opportunity to visit the APA Group’s Northern Goldfields Interconnect to see how the pipeline is being constructed at the ground level.

The Northern Goldfields Interconnect (NGI) is a DN300 buried pipeline being constructed in Western Australia by APA Group. With a total length of 580 km, construction of the NGI is a massive undertaking. It was the perfect opportunity for members of the APGA’s Young Pipeliners Forum (YPF) to gain first-hand knowledge about pipeline construction and the importance of hard work at all stages of the project process.

A meeting of minds

The NGI is a 580 km pipeline in Western Australia.
The NGI is a 580 km pipeline in Western Australia.

Trained in petroleum engineering, Myat Noe Khin is a Senior Data Analyst at ROSEN. Her job means that she spends most of her working life behind a computer screen. Earlier in her career, Khin says that the YPF offered a place where she could explore other aspects of the vast landscape that is the pipeline industry.

“I found myself really enjoying the events that I went to as part of working for ROSEN. Not just the networking, but the technical events and learning experiences as well,” she says. “I like the way we can connect with each other and learn what is happening across the industry.”

Brad Roberts is a Mechanical Engineer at Fyfe and, like Khin, his work is quite distant from the actual construction of a pipeline.

“My workload is roughly 50-50 split between technical and project work, so I’m more involved in the design phase – before the project goes to construction,” he says.

Roberts says that a number of his colleagues at Fyfe were members of the YPF. Joining, for him, began as a way to socialise with similarly minded individuals.

As members of the forum, Khin and Roberts were given the opportunity to visit a number of sites along the in-construction NGI pipeline – an occasion that provided both insight and vision for them, and an understanding of the different stages of delivering a pipeline project.

A deeper understanding

Attendees were able to have their questions answered by workers on the NGI.
Attendees were able to have their questions answered by workers on the NGI.

Starting in Geraldton, 50 km west of where the pipeline starts, the YPF members were taken by bus along the pipeline. They would stop at various work sites where the project manager would talk them through the progress and processes of each section.

“It was my first time going on site and seeing the pipeline in construction. It was really eye-opening for me,” says Khin.

YPF members were shown all the activities that go into pipeline construction at the actual source. Witnessing welding, field joint coating, trenching, lowering activity and more.

Khin says that one of the crew members took them through the process of pipeline coating.

“They took us through what they do and exactly why they do it. It was quite detailed information. It’s definitely something that I will remember,” she says.

As an active part of the design process on similar pipelines, Roberts says that he appreciated the opportunity to see how his work impacts the actual construction of a project.

“It’s good to see some of what I’m used to looking at on a computer screen – just a spreadsheet – translated into something physical and real,” he says.

Overcoming challenges

The remote location of the NGI is only one of the challenges being faced by crews on the pipeline. Workers are housed in camps that are made up of demountable buildings which can be easily moved to be closer to the work as the pipeline grows.

The ground conditions are also immensely variable, meaning crews have to adapt their approach to trenching, from typical open-trench methods to using explosives to break apart large granite formations and hard rock.

Khin says the way crews were overcoming various challenges was a highlight of the experience.

“One site was crossing a main road. They weren’t able to dig a trench through it so they had to do horizontal directional drilling which, obviously, changed how they had to lay the pipe as well,” she says.

In some cases, crews are navigating around assets belonging to local mining and resources projects, as well as working on timelines that are impacted by heavy rains.

Lessons for the future

The opportunity to visit one of the most important pipeline projects in the industry has equipped members of the YPF with a functional understanding of what is required by works on this scale.

Khin says that the experience will stick with her as she continues to pursue her career in the industry.

Roberts says that witnessing the effort required on the project was one of the most valuable experiences of the trip.

“It makes you think twice about simple things in the design phase. If we want to increase the depth of cover of a pipeline, I now know that that can be a much bigger ask than I originally thought. We can choose to increase the depth, but now I know how that translates into a potentially expensive, time-consuming and difficult task on site. It’s good to get that perspective,” he says.

In the future, he says, more interaction between the teams that design a project and the teams that construct it would be valuable.

“It’s definitely impacted the way I go about my work – I’m more considered in how my actions in the office might affect people on the construction side of things. I’m thinking more about how I can make that job easier for them,” says Roberts.

The APGA would like to thank Nacap and APA for working together to enable the YPF tour of the Northern Goldfields Pipeline.

For more information on the Young Pipeliners Forum visit the website.

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This article is featured in the January edition of The Australian Pipeliner.

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