Pipeline Pedigree

Ken Bilston and Paul Bilston

Ken Bilston got his start in the industry 41 years ago, working for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority from 1966 to 1972, primarily working on hydro-electric pipelines and aqueducts. It was at this stage he became involved with AWRA, the predecessor of WIA and the APIA Research and Standards activities. In 1973, when Gough Whitlam and Rex Connor took over the Moomba to Sydney Gas Pipeline, he was seconded to The Pipeline Authority and worked with Tom Baker as “˜Owner’s Engineer’ on the Moomba to Sydney Gas Pipeline.

When his son Paul – now with AJ Lucas’ Coal Seam Gas business – finished his engineering degree in 1989, Paul says that unlike today there were very few jobs for engineers.

“I had decided to go and ski for a few months and was not sure what I would do when I came back. I became aware, through Dad, that the pipeline industry was looking to sponsor a PhD student to carry out a research project into problems in cold bending of pipe.”

Paul applied for the scholarship and was successful. He says that he felt very fortunate to work with a lot of very good people from the industry on what was significant issue to them.

“I think the industry thought that Dad would help keep me on track so they would get a reasonable outcome and the real project would not get lost in the realms of academia,” Paul says.

Ken says that he didn’t envisage that any of his three children who studied engineering would follow him in to the industry, but Paul did and his youngest son Colin also worked in the industry.

Paul says that his father’s involvement shaped his views on the industry in a number of ways, not only thanks to the spirited people he met through his father, but also the knowledge that the industry was a growing and exciting one.

Paul’s earliest pipeline memory is “going up what seemed like miles (but was probably only a few hundred metres) inside the Moomba to Sydney Gas Pipeline on one of the little battery operated trolleys that they were using to repair the root welds on the pipelines. I remember Dad wearing a t-shirt made for the project “˜Like a rat up a drainpipe’ which I think summed it up very well. It was great fun.”

In the seventeen years that Paul has worked in the industry he and Ken have worked together on a number of projects, including developing a six-inch pipeline ploughing system and on studies for Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline as well as them both having involvement with the PNG Gas project.

While Ken says he “wouldn’t dare” to offer Paul career advice on the industry, he says that while working on projects together they “developed a very professional relationship, entirely separate from our family one. We had some great arguments!”

Ken says that the best thing about working in the industry is that “No two jobs, no two projects, almost no two days, are ever the same. It has been enormously satisfying to be part of the development of the modern Australian pipeline industry,” while Paul highlights the people as one of the stand-out attributes of the industry.

Like in many pipeline families, pipelines are often a topic of conversation around the dinner table – as Paul puts it “often to the chagrin of the rest of the family.” Paul says that they are both a bit technical and a bit commercial, meaning they can talk across a pretty broad range of subjects.

“Pipeliners always have good stories to tell, and some of them are even true!” Paul says.

Ken says that he has learnt from Paul that “It takes a wide variety of different types of people to make a great industry. I am primarily a technocrat, but my son is very much a manager as well as having a good technical background.”

Looking to the future, and whether there will be a third generation of pipeliners, Paul says that he has three sons at home, “So who knows!”

Peter Marks Snr and Peter Marks Jnr

Peter Snr says that he always knew that Peter Jnr would end up in the industry: “Even when he was little, Pete was always interested in my work and asked heaps of questions.”

Peter Snr entered the pipeline industry on the Longford to Dandenong Gas Pipeline after his mate Peter Freer convinced him to go down to work on the 24 inch pipeline as a welder.

Peter Jnr says his father’s involvement influenced him greatly. “Growing up with him working away, I became very accustomed to the lifestyle. He did a lot of travelling around and that always interested me. I also grew up knowing a lot of the people he had been involved with and their children on different projects and have enjoyed working with them also.”

When he was about five he remembers taking lunch to his father on a project – he was working on just out of Dongara, WA – and seeing him weld.

“He talked about his work a lot at home and I was always interested in hearing all his stories,” Peter Jnr remembers. Peter Jnr’s first job was in 1997 on the Ballera to Wallumbilla Pipeline and he has worked in the industry over the ten years since.

Peter Snr’s work ethic and skills were passed to Peter Jnr. “I taught him to weld and all the little tricks when he was quite young. I also taught him how to stove weld properly. I also told him to do a good job,” says Peter Snr.

Peter Jnr agrees, saying that when growing up he admired his father’s work ethic. “He taught me to always do a good job and give more than 100 per cent. If you don’t do a good job, people hear about it. Word of mouth is an important part of the industry.”

In 1999 they worked together on the Eastern Gas Pipeline where Peter Jnr remembers playing in a doubles pool competition in the camp with his father.

Peter Snr’s pride from working with his son on that project is evident, “The greatest memory was just being on the same job as my son and getting to watch how he works. People had said so many good things to me about him so it was great to see first hand what they were talking about.”

Peter Snr says that Peter Jnr has taught him that there are good young welders coming up in the industry. Peter Snr also enjoys meeting people in the industry, and “Just getting to catch up with them and talking like old friends when it could have been years in between seeing them.” Peter Jnr shares this feeling – he also enjoys the travel and seeing places many people never get the opportunity to see.

There is no doubt at all that there will be another generation of pipeliners in the Marks family. “My little boy, Jack who is three, loves talking about the machinery and the different jobs on the lines. He also loves to pretend he is welding pipe together,” Peter Jnr says.

The Burns Family

It’s certainly a family business at Anode Engineering with husband and wife team Wayne and Roslyn seeing their children Gayle and Stuart at work every day.

Wayne was first introduced to the industry 36 years ago as an NDT cadet (later Metallurgist) working at ETRS and then at Wilson Walton International. Roslyn’s involvement starting from typing reports at night while Wayne was studying.

In 2004 Wayne and Roslyn started Anode Engineering with Gayle joining the team that same year having previously been involved in the industry. Stuart started twelve months ago, when he decided it was time for a career change.

While they never had plans for their children to become pipeliners, Wayne and Roslyn have enjoyed working with Gayle and Stuart.

However, despite denying they had any pipeline plans for their children, Wayne clearly seems to have trained them early – as Stuart recalls, “Driving around as a kid with Dad, he would always point out where the pipelines were running and give us the twenty minute talk on where the lines came from and where they end up.” Stuart also recalls that his parents had aspirations for the whole family to be involved “at some stage.”

Gayle says that her parents’ involvement did shape her interest in the industry, “Dad always enjoyed his work and highlighted how exciting the industry can be, I was curious….I guess they [pipelines] have been in my life since day one.”

Working in the family business has taught Stuart many things, but he says the most important thing is to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Gayle concurs, saying that being prepared for anything is a vital part of working in the industry.

Both Gayle and Stuart try to avoid “talking shop” at home, preferring to make time at home about family and relaxing. As Gayle points out, “We make a point of keeping work and home life separate, otherwise family get-togethers would run the risk of becoming a work meeting.”

Of course while working at the same company means that every project is a shared project, Stuart highlights installing his first Cathodic Protection System as a standout.

“The biggest highlight of that particular job was that Dad allowed me to run the installation the way I thought it should be done. I learnt a lot from that job, some things would change if I did it again, but it was definitely a great learning curve,” Stuart says.

Wayne and Roslyn enjoy the people and the remote locations they travel to as part of the industry, while Stuart likes the fact that technologies are ever-changing, so “I won’t get stuck in the rut of the same thing day in and day out.”

Gayle enjoys “the challenges offered by the pipeline industry, and that there is always something new to learn.”

Additionally, support from older members of the industry is valued by Stuart, “The support and advice from the older more experienced pipeliners is also a bonus. In my experience there are too many industries that have a lot of knowledge that doesn’t get passed down to the younger generation.”

As to the next generation, Stuart sums up “When I get around to having children I’ll let them follow their own path. If they wish to show an interest in pipelines they will get the support needed to get into the industry.”

Vin Pollock and Dave Pollock

Over the past 30 to 40 years a lot of people from the pipeline industry have sat in the Pollock family’s kitchen and told many a story of the pipeline game, so it’s hardly surprising then that Dave has followed a similar path to his father Vin in entering the pipeline industry.

The family history in the industry extends back even further with Vin’s grandfather having worked in the gas industry. “So the odds are it will happen again in the future,” Dave says.

Over the years Vin has taught Dave “that whether you are the Project Manager or the bloke throwing skids, there are numerous different skills and jobs to be done in constructing a pipeline and all are needed to get the job done.”

Vin started working life with the Metropolitan Gas Company as a Technical Assistant in February 1951. This position involved doing an apprenticeship as a Boilermaker Welder as well as completing a Diploma of Civil Engineering on a part-time basis.

On completion of his apprenticeship, he was appointed Assistant Engineer and transferred to the Distribution Department of the Gas & Fuel Corporation with responsibilities for gas distribution and reticulation in the metropolitan area.

Then, in the mid-70s, pipeline identity Graham Witty approached Vin to join the Pipelines Division as a Project Engineer working on projects such as the looping of the 750 mm Longford to Dandenong pipeline and several transmission lines serving Goulburn Valley towns.

“More Project Engineers were needed to cover the expanding work load and Mark Bumpstead and Peter Wheelwright came to the Pipelines Division,” Vin recalls.

Dave recalls that during the Longford to Dandenong Looping his father was working on the pipeline for about two years, coming home nearly every second weekend.

“He [Vin] decided to buy a caravan and have it on site at Metung,” Dave says.

Dave started his apprenticeship in Boilermaking, specialising in plate and pipe welding to x-ray standards. He gained valuable experience working on transmission pipelines while with the Gas & Fuel Corporation. After the reorganisation of Gas & Fuel, David and a partner started their own contract pipelaying company. Later, Valley Welding Fabrications was formed and provided specialised welding services to the pipeline construction industry. These services involved construction, supervision and inspection. Dave says that Vin still helps in his current business, CDP Networks, and enjoys hearing about what is happening around the place.

Although Dave had already been in the gas industry for about ten years, he lists the Wagga Wagga to Barnawartha interconnect pipeline as his commencement in the pipeline industry. On this project he and Vin worked together for a short time.

“We worked on the Wagga to Barnawartha pipeline together, it was my first job on a pipeline as a welding inspector so there had been some trepidation from Vin’s boss Graham Witty in allowing a relative to have the job because of nepotism, etc…So once I was given the opportunity to prove myself I was asked to go straight onto another project that had just started. It was great to see Dad in the environment he spent most of his working life in and catching up at the end of the day over a beer,” Dave says.

On the highpoints of the pipeline industry, Vin says, “On pipeline work you have the opportunity to develop good long term relationships as management and workforce frequently meet on different projects. I am pleased to be able to say that I have made friends through my involvement in the pipeline industry.” Dave says one of the key bonuses in the industry is “Being able to go onto a new project and catch up with people you may not have worked with or spoken to for years but by the end of the night you’re back having a beer and telling old stories.”

Jim McDonald and Kate Kirwin

When Jim McDonald started his oil and gas career for Esso in Bass Strait it may have been tough to convince him that one day, his children would all be involved in similar areas, including pipelines.

Jim started in the pipeline industry in 1986 as CEO of NT Gas after “having been called by someone who thought I should apply,” and has been strongly involved in the industry ever since, including two separate terms as APIA President.

Jim’s daughter Kate’s first memory of the industry dates to 1987, when Jim got picked up by a helicopter on the Stuart Highway in Tennant Creek after an earthquake damaged the NT Gas Pipeline.

Nowadays, Kate – his youngest daughter – is working for Transfield Services as Project Accountant on the Western Corridor Recycled Water Pipeline. His eldest son Steve is working for Esso in Bass Strait, Gemma works for Imperial Snubbing Services (which has snubbing rigs working in Bass Strait) and Joanne works for Compass Group/ESS that have catered for Bass Strait platforms as well as for pipeline projects.

In fact, Kate highlights this: “Most of my siblings are also involved in the same or similar industries, so talk of oil, gas and pipelines often dominates our dinner conversations. A couple of my mates are also involved in the pipeline game, so we find ourselves talking about it without thinking.”

Asked if it’s likely that these industry relationships will carry on to another generation Kate responds, “I hope so, my brother and sister are involved in the industry also, and my brother and brother-in-law both work offshore in Bass Strait, so I can see the trend continuing to future generations.”

Kate’s first job in the industry was working as an accounts clerk for East Australian Pipeline in Canberra, and some of those links have recently been renewed. “Working on the Western Corridor project has seen me working with people that I haven’t seen since my days on the East Australian Pipeline, so it’s all very familiar,” Kate says.

Jim says that Kate’s experience has taught him that accounting and management reporting in alliance requires systems that work well.

Kate sees it that the most important lesson she has learnt from Jim is that “The pipeline industry has seen him having to deal with a range of people from the guys in the field to politicians and executives, and I’ve always admired his respect for people no matter where they fit into the world. This has taught me a significant amount about how to be respectful, and earn respect from those you work with.”

When Kate started in the industry Jim told her “that it is an industry that works hard, that she will meet some wonderful people in it, and to enjoy her work and the people.” After some time in the industry, Kate concurs: “It always struck me as being a hard-working industry, but one with lots of rewards and good times. Everybody works hard, but still really enjoys having a beer together to celebrate what has been achieved.”

“He [Jim] has always been well respected and seemed to really enjoy his work, and that has provided me with an incentive to achieve something along the lines of what he has,” Kate says.

Jim concludes by saying “I have been blessed to have formed enduring friendships with people from all parts of the industry. There is a strong egalitarian ethos in this industry. Everybody respects the contribution of others, and I enjoy that a great deal. Unique is a word sometimes overused, but I do think it can be applied to this industry, which is a great silent servant to our country.”

John Gundry and Sean Gundry

The Eastern Gas Pipeline holds a special significance for John and Sean Gundry. The job was Sean’s first “real” pipeline job during his traineeship after having accepted an offer of full time work from Rosen’s Chris Yoxall. They both worked on the project, with John one of the senior engineers for the pipeline. In addition, Sean’s brother Matthew was working for Transfield on one of the hydro testing crews. John recalls that “My fondest memory was that this job set Sean on a career path.”

John had an interesting entry to the industry around 35 years ago having worked as Mobil Oil’s engineer for the Pacific Islands where he was involved in airport hydrant lines, submarine petroleum pipelines and delivery pipelines. Following this he worked for the ubiquitous Gas & Fuel Corporation as a pipeline design engineer and pipeline construction engineer.

While Sean was studying, John managed to get him some part-time work with what is now GPU and what was then Gas & Fuel, working in the workshop and yard performing duties such as sand blasting and general maintenance.

“Close ties formed with Dad’s work mates and I was hooked, I still have contact with them today and inspect their lines with Rosen frequently,” Sean says.

John claims, tongue in cheek, that “When Sean asked me if he should join Rosen I advised him that if he didn’t I would not speak to him again.” The opportunity provided to Sean has been extremely fruitful, “In the seven years with Rosen I have inspected pipelines for almost every oil and gas company in Australia as well as many around the world.”

John and Sean are constantly learning from each other, with Sean crediting his father for instilling in him the need to think with logic and have an open mind as well as to listen to people and learn from their experience.

“My father is a man who thinks and performs from experience and only talks when he knows what he is talking about. Sometimes I believe the smartest man I have ever met is a man that only talks when he knows what he is talking about,” Sean says.

Dinner table talk often extends to pipelines and the industry: “There is one thing about pipeliners, we all have a story to tell and most of the time we can relate to the story being told,” Sean says.

John says that the best aspects of the industry include the rewards of personal achievement, the people he works with and that every project is different. Meanwhile, Sean enjoys working with knowledgeable and professional people that are confident in their work and who have helped Sean develop within the industry, and of course, the many friends gathered along the way.

Looking to the future, Sean says “While we can only guide our children the best we can, I am confident that when my children grow up they will definitely consider a career in the industry. It is a challenging and rewarding career path. I can see a third and even fourth generation of pipeliners in my family.”

Tony Tschappeller and Paul Tschappeller

Twenty-five years ago Tony Tschappeller joined the pipeline industry with G. Minson PBM working on the Deer Park – Sunbury Pipeline.

In 1984 he gave his son Paul a chance on the Amadeus Basin – Darwin Pipeline as a joint coater. Tony says that Paul turned out to be a very competent operator on a wide range of equipment that saw Paul finish the job on a loader with the bed and padding crew.

It seemed inevitable that Paul would end up in the industry given that Tony says that “After he finished his education he always wanted to work on a pipeline.”

Tony, now with Mitchell Australia, offered Paul the advice that “If he worked hard and showed his skills he would get the opportunity to go a long way.”

Since that time Paul has been involved in the industry and is now an Estimator for McConnell Dowell. He has taken on board from his father the importance of producing a good quality product on the pipeline spread while Tony respects Paul because of how he works and his excellent ideas on efficiency for projects.

Paul’s greatest pipeline memory is from Moomba on the Santos Service Contract, when he was promoted to Superintendent for the installation of the flowlines.

Both Paul and Tony agree that the industry is an extremely satisfying one, despite what can be demanding conditions.

Barry Wood and Andrew Wood

Pipeline Publications founder Barry Wood started his career in the motor car and engineering sales industries, however he had several contacts in the pipeline industry, including Keith Jackson, Manager of Metlabs in Melbourne, and John Barker and Brian Trevena who had a pipeline consulting firm.

Keith was Barry’s coach when he started playing junior hockey for Elsternwick in 1954. John, Brian and Barry started their first jobs together at the Standard Motor Company in 1956.

Barry’s pipeline career started when he did some part time work for Keith x-raying longitudinal weld ends at Humes in Footscray for “the handsome sum of one dollar per hour.”

In 1969 John Barker offered Barry three weeks work helping out with a Pearson Holiday survey on the just completed Dutson – Dandenong 30 inch gas pipeline.

“That three weeks work is now approaching forty years in the industry. I worked full-time in construction and part-time publishing from 1972 to 1985 and then full-time publishing, getting Pipeline Publications underway,” Barry says.

“During my construction years I sometimes took my children to visit pipeline construction sites and it was Andrew my youngest son who was obviously the most technically minded.”

Andrew recalls his first time visiting a pipeline, “I recall travelling to a job Dad was working on in South Gippsland in his Gas & Fuel van and spending the day travelling up the ROW talking to the occasional pipeliner, stopping in at a local shop and having a donut and Big M. It must have been in the early days of strict environmental controls on pipeline projects, and there was considerable profile given to the Gippsland worm. To someone so young, stories of 1.5 metre worms were intriguing – although I never did get to see one.”

Andrew went on to complete a degree in engineering. Barry recalls, “If there was on piece of advice I continually gave him it was to get that piece of paper in his hands, meaning of course to get qualified.”

Barry says “Craig, my second oldest son, worked on several pipeline construction sites. Jim Reaman kindly helped get him into the industry and Graham Lowry and his wife Kay took him under their wing on several Northern Territory jobs. Craig went on to become a professional photographer.

“Neil Pain, my son-in-law, worked at Pipeline Publications and continued on in the pipeline industry now working with Rosen in Perth.”

“Craig, Neil and I did however work together at Pipeline Publications for several years,” Barry recalls.

Andrew became the pipeliner. He finished his degree and eventually ended up with WorleyParsons where he now works out of the Bangkok office.

Andrew’s first job was on the Wagga-Wagga to Barnawatha Pipeline, where he was able to get a start as a labourer on the job through Barry’s contacts.

“I had always been interested in Dad’s stories about his work, the places he saw and the colourful characters he worked with. I also had a preference for working outdoors with my hands compared to being in a desk job. So the combination of these things made it an easy decision to start, work hard, and forge a career in the pipeline industry,” Andrew said.

Barry also taught Andrew not burn your bridges, because you’ll be working with the same people on the next project. Barry and Andrew also, from time to time, discuss the people in the industry that Andrew is working with who used to work with Barry.

On the best points about the industry Andrew says, “There is a sort of camaraderie among pipeliners that you probably don’t see in a lot of other industries. On every project you end up working with people that you have worked with on previous projects, or who know people in common, and it is good fun to slip into a few stories with them.

“When working in the field, you get to cross a lot of varied country and go to places that well travelled people would never get to see. You get to meet people from different communities, including farmers and landowners, local contractors, towns people, and the local publican – and some of the more interesting characters you meet you will not easily forget,” Andrew says.

On highlights Barry says, “I especially enjoyed working in the construction side of the industry; I enjoyed the work, the people and the challenges. The publishing of The Australian Pipeliner has been the most fulfilling project I have ever undertaken.”

The last word is appropriately left to Barry, “I am particularly pleased that the tradition of pipelining is continuing in the family and hope it may continue for more generations to come.”

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