The first year of The Pipeline Authority

The Pipeline Authority (TPA), a year old last month, is one of the key organisations through which the Australian Government is implementing its policies on the development of the nation’s natural resources in the minerals and energy field.

Expressed briefly, the Government’s view is that the Australian people are the real owners of these basic national assets – assets that should be managed with great care so that the assets are used to the optimum benefit on for the nation as a whole.

Part III of the Pipeline Authority Act deals with the functions, duties and powers of the Authority in clear, concise terms. The first few words dealing with functions are worth quoting here: “To construct pipelines for the conveyance of petroleum recovered from Australian petroleum pools to centres of population and points of export with a view to the establishment of a national integrated system of such pipelines, and to maintain and operate those pipelines.”

The concluding words of the sub-section are: “…and the Authority shall carry on business for the purpose of performing those functions.”

The Authority is indeed a business enterprise and it is being operated as such. It is required to make a small profit but its real dividends will be expressed in national efficiency.

The concept of an integrated pipeline system is based on a national requirement to distribute energy by the most efficient and economical means, affording us the opportunity to plan for the medium and longer term while getting on with more urgent tasks.

With emphasis on the need to get the most out of our resources of natural gas over the next few decades, the Authority is working to avoid the mistakes of others in the past – catastrophic muddles which can be summed up for Australians as “˜break-of-gauge’ and for Americans as “˜the great pipeline spaghetti bowl’.

We are working to a broad national purpose in creating a gas distribution system of which the Moomba to Sydney 34 inch trunk line is the first section to be constructed and managed by TPA.

Negotiations for the Authority to acquire control of AGL’s construction subsidiary, East-Aust. Pipeline Corporation, and make a haulage agreement with AGL, were completed before the Authority was a year old. This achievement was due in no small measure to the practical approach exhibited by all parties in seeking a set of legal arrangements, which would satisfy the Australian Government’s desire to ensure a fair deal all round.

The part played here by tireless officers of the Attorney General’s Department is not likely to be public knowledge, but I want to record that their work was a piece of first class public service – public service in the finest sense of the words.

Similarly the Authority has had valuable help from other public organisations in getting off the deck. I want particularly to mention the central administrative unit of the Department of Minerals and Energy, that department’s fuel branch, the Department of Services and Property, and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which has now formed its own pipeline division to provide a consultant service to TPA.

As I mentioned earlier, TPA is being run on modern business lines – we have been able to keep our numbers small while calling on the collective expertise of a great many specialists. We are not building an empire. We will use consultants and contractors to the maximum possible extent.

This approach has already been demonstrated in our retention of Williams Bros – CMPS as engineering consultants on the Moomba to Sydney Pipeline, and in the joint arrangement we made last year with the Fuel and Power Commission of Western Australia to have Bechtel Pacific Corporation undertake a feasibility study on possible routes for natural gas lines linking Dampier, Perth, Kalgoorlie and Palm Valley.

That study has been completed and the results are under examination by ourselves and the Western Australian authorities. At this stage it would not be proper for me to comment on likely developments in the west – nor for that matter on the suggested link between the Cooper Basin gas fields and Palm Valley.

Suffice it to say, there is a lot of pipeline to be built in Australia after we get a line into Sydney.

Saipem and APC are pushing ahead on two sections of that line which, as readers may know, was delayed initially by the entirely proper environmental inquiry conducted by the New South Wales Government. Since then, this project has been dogged by the worst run of wet weather central Australia and western New South Wales have experienced in living memory.

Ironically, one of the early planning considerations in the project was to provide Darling River water for hydrostatic testing of the line in far western New South Wales and on to Moomba. Now our main problem is a super abundance of water in the wrong places. Problems, however, are made to be overcome and we are now looking forward to having the entire 1,298 km of trunk main ready for commissioning towards the end of 1976.

We have the organisation and we have the pipe and we have the know-how. Perhaps most importantly, TPA has the confidence and the will to get on with a job for Australia.

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