Santos enhances Fairview coal seam gas production with new pipeline

The 128 km pipeline to the Wallumbilla gas hub near Roma is a $48 million investment for the future. Completed in only 15 months from internal project approval, the new pipeline overcomes existing infrastructure limitations and will enable Fairview to reach its coal seam gas production potential.

When Santos became the Operator of the Fairview assets as part of the acquisition of Tipperary Corporation in 2005, production averaged 27 terajoules per day (TJ/d). The new 350 mm diameter pipeline, with a design capacity in excess of 200 TJ/d fully compressed, has already allowed a ramp-up in Fairview production to around 60 TJ/d since it was commissioned in March 2007.

Santos Team Leader, Connections, John Gassner, said the new pipeline to Wallumbilla, coupled with significant investment in drilling additional production wells and installing expanded production and compression facilities, will underpin increased production at Fairview.

“With this latest investment we have overcome the limitations of the existing pipeline infrastructure and Fairview is now the largest producing coal seam gas field in Australia,” Mr Gassner told The Australian Pipeliner.

Mr Gassner said the timely and professional approach to the environmental, cultural heritage and landholder elements of the new pipeline were particular highlights of the project.

“The project team was selected based upon its ability to deliver against the highest standards of environment, health and safety performance in a relatively compressed schedule. The high standards set in the Environmental Management Plan, coupled with Santos’ sound track record, ensured the plan was endorsed in a tight timeframe by the relevant State and Federal regulators.”

The pipeline route was designed to avoid several areas of environmental sensitivity including a spectacular limestone escarpment and remnants of Brigalow Woodland on the northern end of the pipeline near Fairview.

“The project team was able to engineer-out the risk of damage to fragile escarpments in the Fairview field by following areas of existing disturbance. To further minimise risk and disturbance the team selected a slightly longer pipeline route that avoided forest areas and in part abutted the disturbance associated with the existing Queensland Gas Pipeline from Wallumbilla to Gladstone,” Mr Gassner said.

“This approach to minimising disturbance virtually halved the area of trees cleared when compared to earlier pipeline installation practices,” he said.

In relation to Native Title, Santos enjoyed positive negotiations and reached agreement with the respective claimant groups along the pipeline route. A cultural heritage survey identified a number of significant sites and the pipeline alignment was changed to accommodate these sites, and the degree of construction clearance was reduced in other locations.

“Building on the positive relationships we had with the area’s traditional owners, and drawing on Santos’ in-house expertise, the necessary arrangements for native title and cultural heritage management were executed in a time frame of just four months,” Mr Gassner said.

“This was a solid outcome that compares favourably with approval times for similar resource projects, and is a testament to the commitment of the project team,” he said.

“Two Indigenous trainees gained direct employment on the pipeline project and total of 28 cultural heritage monitors were on site at various times during construction. The cultural heritage arrangements established with the Aboriginal groups along the pipeline have assisted Santos in developing and refining a best practice approach in the company’s ongoing engagement with Indigenous people.”

The majority of the 120 construction workers were accommodated in Injune and Wallumbilla and the use of local services was maximised where possible. This approach ensured that commercial benefits associated with the project extended throughout the region.

The local landholders were also engaged throughout the planning and execution phase of the project. There were 47 landholder, local shire and state authorities that owned and occupied land along the route and agreements were reached with each of these parties ahead of the pipeline installation program.

Such engagement with local communities and stakeholders was a contributing factor to the successful completion of the Fairview to Wallumbilla pipeline to the highest of environment, health and safety standards and within the planned budget and schedule.

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