Frequently Asked Questions
Project Background and Status
1. Who owns the Hunter Gas Pipeline project?
The Hunter Gas Pipeline Project is owned by Hunter Gas Pipeline Pty Ltd, a private company with shareholders from other successful businesses. Garbis Simonian, the managing director is the largest shareholder, and has manufacturing interests in the Hunter.
2. What are the benefits Hunter Gas believe the Queensland-Hunter Pipeline could provide to the state’s energy supply?
NSW homes and business rely on a secure, affordable natural gas supply, but the state imports 95% of its gas from other Australian states. This pipeline provides much needed competition and security of supply for NSW and will provide baseload certainty to the electricity grid as we transition to renewables.
3. What uncertainties of gas supply to the East Coast market over the last decade still prevail?
Traditional gas supply to southern states from Bass Strait will continue to decline creating shortages of gas for homes and industries. HGP will access gas from Northern Australia (from the Wallumbilla Gas Hub and if Narrabri is approved, then from Narrabri). This supply will help secure ongoing energy supply to NSW.
4. Why have you waited 10 years to move forward on this project?
The Hunter Gas Pipeline has been under consideration for over 15 years, and has been subject of detailed planning and robust environmental approval processes. Changes in the eastern Australian gas market increase the need for secure, sustainable gas supply. Ensuring there is sufficient gas is critical and there is greater need than in previous years to source other supply.
5. Why not build the pipeline on public land?
A pipeline of significant distance will cross public and private land. The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has stated that land in Travelling Stock Reserves, which is the majority of public land, has significant biodiversity value. The government initially rejected the proposal to build in the TSRs based its biodiversity value along the stock routes.
If we can demonstrate that the human amenity impact is greater than the biodiversity impacts it may be possible to relocate into TSRs, and also, for example, along the ridge line around the Zone 1 Water reserve (if landholders of those newly impacted land parcels supported such a deviation).
This may also include local Council owned roads, if Councils are amenable to this deviation from the approved corridor.
The Hon. Michael Johnsen MP stated that he is discussing with relevant Ministers to agree to use public land where possible. The pipeline corridor is being reviewed and the final route alignment needs to satisfy the current government. It is estimated it will take another year to finalise the detailed route alignment maps and the 30 metre Right of Way.
6. Who is financing the pipeline?
To date we have held discussions with two major Australian banks & other major institutions including superannuation funds. They have all responded positively to finance up to 70% of the project value with 30% shareholders’ equity.
7. Who are the shareholders?
The Shareholders are entities associated with Mr Garbis Simonian (The Weston Group) , AsheMorgan, Mr Krikor Soghomonian, Mr Ross Skerman (RLMS), Mr Hilton Grugeon and Mr Graham Burns (Hunter Land Pty Ltd).
8. Are you going to have public meetings to engage with the community?
The Hunter Gas Pipeline project is committed to respond to genuine questions and concerns held in the community. We prioritise consultation with directly affected landholders; and with councils who represent the broader communities. Public meetings will not be conducted at this stage. Once the engagement with all affected parties has been conducted (and subject to Covid-19 restrictions), information booths at the regional centres will be conducted to provide latest information about the project. Our comprehensive engagement program began as part of the original approval process in 2007/2008. HGP’s intent is to respond to any questions and concerns around the project and that this would take time and personal engagement, which HGP is committed to undertaking over the next 12 months.
9. Some landholders believe there has not been enough consultation since the original approval was granted over 10 years ago?
HGP acknowledges there has been little engagement over the period between 2010 and 2019. We are now taking the first steps in a long and committed process to re-engage with those landholders who are directly affected. Letters were sent on 13 July reintroducing the project to the affected landholders; 1300 number has been established; along with an email address for people to submit their questions or contact details so we can return landholder calls.
HGP has recently provided face-to-face updates to all of the 10 councils along the NSW corridor, and written to all state and federal elected members along the corridor and those MPs responsible for various related portfolios, in the event that landholders reach out to their locally elected representatives.
HGP’s intent is to respond to all genuine question and concerns around the project and that this would take time and personal engagement, which HGP is committed to undertaking over the next 12 months.
10. Who is underwriting you?
Our shareholders have successful businesses in their own right. Once we have gas contracts in place, we will be in a position to finance the pipeline. We are in discussions with highly reputable Australian investors and financiers who see the value of the project and indicated serious interest to invest.
11. Why should we trust you? Why doesn’t your website include more information on company policies, company values and your leadership team?
We know that people have genuine questions and concerns about the project. This is the beginning of our consultation; we are committed to engaging with the affected landholders and councils as our priority. We know there is a lot to do, including updating our website (which is now underway).. We will collaborate with landholders to lessen impacts, and utilise public lands where we can, if councils are amenable to that, and we can modify our existing approval based on lessening these impacts. This pipeline will provide gas and create greater energy stability, certainty and security for the broader NSW community.
12. How many gas pipelines, the size and magnitude of this proposed pipeline, has Hunter Gas Pipeline been responsible for in regard to the engineering design, supply and construction phases?
Hunter Gas Pipeline has assembled a highly experienced a team with an impeccable track record. Our pipeline construction expert Bob Otjen brings to the project his international experience and depth of knowledge from more than 44 years for constructing oil and gas pipelines. He has been involved in the route selection, design, construction and operation of pipelines in 18 countries. In Australia he was responsible for all aspects of the design, construction and operation of the Southwest Queensland Gas Pipeline a 756 km pipeline from Ballera to Wallumbilla. He has also been involved in the Port Hedland tie-in pipeline near Karratha. He was also involved in the operation of the Dampier to Bunbury Gas Pipeline in Western Australia and the Moomba to Adelaide Gas Pipeline in South Australia.
Ross Skerman, shareholder, owner and managing director of RLMS, has a career spanning the past 47 years developing hydrocarbon provinces across eastern Australia from the major basins of the Cooper, Bowen and Surat. The last 30 years have focussed on major project assessment specialising in environmental and land access approvals at all government levels.
Ian Bridge, General Manager for RLMS is an environmental scientist who has been practising in the field for over 35 years. His most experience on major pipelines and linear infrastructure includes:
Environmental Manager on the ZeroGen project which included cross country carbon dioxide pipelines
Pipeline Environmental Manager on the GLNG pipeline;
Approvals and compliance manager on the Arrow Surat and Arrow Bowen Pipelines.
Linear infrastructure includes the CopperString 2.0 High voltage Power Line – Land Access manager and Owners team on environment and construction.
13. Is it the case that existing and new landholder were not directly advised of the modification to the project extension in October 2018 from the company?
The project approval was extended by the NSW Government in October 2019. HGP advertised the project approval extension in several metropolitan and regional papers along the corridor, as required by DPIE. We are now just recommencing engagement with all (new and existing) landholders again (although this remains subject to COVID-19 conditions for travel). This will involve numerous one on one meetings with individual landholders along the corridor as well as regular briefings and meetings with Councils and other stakeholders.
Papers advertising the project extension were in these papers:
The Courier 23/10/2018
Singleton Argus 24/10/2018
Sydney Morning Herald 25/10/2018
Moree Champion 25/10/2018
Newcastle Herald 25/10/2018
Scone Advocate 25/10/2018
Muswellbrook Chronicle 26/10/2018
Pipeline and Route Alignment
14. Will this pipeline connect to the proposed Santos Narrabri gas field?
The pipeline is approved to transport gas from the Wallumbilla Gas Hub in Queensland to the Hexham Gas Hub in NSW, linking into the existing network and supplying gas to the Sydney Basin. If the Santos Narrabri project is approved and developed, then HGP would also connect to this project, securing further supply.
15. There have been some changes to the originally approved corridor. What has influenced these changes?
There have been some minor changes to this corridor in response to landholder issues/requests, constructability issues as well as third party property infrastructure. Our intent is to minimise disruption and impacts as much as possible to each landholder. The pipeline location will continue to evolve within an approved corridor as part of firming up the final route in close liaison with Landholders.
16. How fixed is the corridor location?
We have NSW government approval to construct a pipeline by October 2024 from the NSW/Queensland border to Hexham near Newcastle in NSW, to sit within a 200m corridor, where practical. The exact location of the underground pipeline itself, with a permanent 30m easement, will be informed by constructability issues, Landholder preferences where possible (i.e. minimal ongoing disruption), and environmental impacts. The project team will collaborate with landholders over the next 12 months through site visits. The Queensland Government has approved the section of the pipeline from the Wallumbilla Gas Hub to the Queensland/NSW border.
17. What is the width of the corridor?
The pipeline will be constructed within a corridor of 30 metres. Additional work areas may be required to enable construction in some areas (such as major road crossings). These temporary works areas will be identified during the property inspections and surveys to confirm the required construction method.
Once the pipeline easement has been fully reinstated, the only visible infrastructure will be marker signs which provide a warning to earth moving machinery operators about excavation in the area. These marker signs are located at crossing points of all fence lines, watercourses, roads, powerlines and railway lines and at other locations so that they can be clearly seen.
18. When will you build the pipeline?
We expect to commence construction within two years. There are several steps to prepare the corridor prior to construction. In addition to Landholder liaison to confirm route location within the corridor; we need to conduct pre-construction survey works, complete detailed engineering design, and order the custom-made carbon steel pipe.
19. Why haven’t you built it before now?
The Hunter Gas Pipeline has been under consideration for over 15 years, and has been the subject of detailed planning and robust environmental approval processes. Changes in the eastern Australian gas market increase the need for secure, sustainable gas supply. Ensuring there is sufficient gas is critical and there is greater need than in previous years to source other supply. NSW still depends largely on gas from Bass Strait. Supply is diminishing and it is now critical to secure another source. Constructing this pipeline from Wallumbilla Gas Hub to Newcastle is now economically justified.
20. The water reserve is the largest issue – including the crossing of Borambil Creek. The proposed pipeline will go through the Quirindi town water supply and potentially contaminating the water supply. Given the soil type in the Liverpool Plains, there is potential for the pipe to move and crack. The water is just a metre below the creek bed, even though the creek itself is ephemeral. The pipeline corridor is also located within 100m of the bore for the town water supply. How do you get under the creek? How do you avoid contamination? How do you avoid leaks? Lots of historic cracking of infrastructure? How can this work?
The pipeline itself is not sensitive to moisture and can be buried in water and highly mobile soils. The coatings on the pipeline are made from epoxy or poly, the same as pipes used in agriculture: therefore, there would be no contamination. This is similar to pipelines being used to transport water.
In addition to the pipeline coating, a very small electrical current is applied to the pipe to keep it from corroding. This very commonplace technology that is also used on cars, boats and other types of infrastructure. The pipe will be buried at least one (1) metre under the Borambil Creek. The method used is “ditch build”, whereby the ditch for the pipe is dug, the pipe laid, the ditch backfilled to prevent collapse.
Natural gas is not a contaminant. Natural gas does not mix, react, or dissolve with water. It is lighter and would float to the surface and dissipate into the atmosphere. It would never adversely impact the water quality.
21. We are concerned with open cut construction and the risk of a flood event causing soil erosion. This is a flood plain and has a natural drainage system. Will the pipeline move in a flood event?
No, the pipeline will be constructed for the conditions. As an example, Bob Otjen, (HGP’s pipeline expert), has described the construction of a pipeline he managed from Ballera to Wallumbilla in Queensland. That pipeline crosses the Cooper Creek (which is 40kms wide during floods). The Cooper floods very intermittently so the pipe was buried a little deeper. It was constructed in 1996 and no issues have been encountered.
22. Will the pipeline be connecting to the Central Ranges Pipeline? · Do you need permission from that pipeline owner?
Provision will be made to make a tie-in to the Central Ranges Pipeline but that is then a commercial matter. Central Ranges Pipeline would have to agree to the connection and the gas transporter would have to pay them for movement on that system.
23. If landowners don’t want HGP on their land what will you do? Will you force them?
HGP wishes to negotiate with landholders for the placement of the pipeline. HGP may have the right of resumption but this is part of the pipeline licencing process and the licencing department makes sure that all avenues of negotiation and possible relocation have been explored and exhausted. The pipeline infrastructure and the gas supply it delivers are essential services for the wider community.
24. Is it the case that landholders may be limited , once the pipeline is laid to the current developments on site? Will small landholders with such easements be limited and unable to build significant infrastructure such as buildings or houses, given that you can’t build within the easement? Arguably that could limit the future value of their block.
HGP will negotiate compensation for the easement. While existing land use can continue, like any linear infrastructure (overhead lines, underground lines, roads, rail corridors, water and gas pipelines), future hardstand developments are not permitted. During the refinement of the route alignment map HGP will collaborate with each landholder to identify the best location for the pipeline on their property. We also need to consider constructability and environmental constraints during refinement of these maps. We have also developed the approved corridor in collaboration with all of the local councils to identify future development zones, so they have been avoided. Our intention is to minimise impacts but once the pipeline is built, and the easements confirmed, no fixed buildings can be erected over the pipeline.
25. Is the Environmental Impact Statement still relevant?
The Environmental Assessment was lodged in September 2008 and approved in January 2009. This approval was been extended by the NSW government in October 2019 for a further 5 years. The Director-General’s Environmental Assessment Report Section 75I for the project remains relevant.
26. What does the approval relate to? What does the project consist of?
The Project to which the Project Approval 06-0286 relates is:
Construction and operation of the NSW portion of an approximately 833-kilometre high pressure natural gas pipeline from the Wallumbilla Gas Hub in Queensland to the Newcastle area in New South Wales, consisting of:
• the construction of pipeline infrastructure such as pigging stations, valve stations and connection points (to other pipelines and facilities)
• erection of perimeter security fences, security and service lighting and signage
• installation of communication and telemetry towers
• installation of cathodic protection devices, and
• construction of pipeline corridor access tracks
In NSW, the pipeline would traverse land within:
• the Moree Plains, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains, Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Maitland, Port Stephens and Newcastle Local Government Areas.
27. Has route selection considered avoiding areas of environmental significance?
Yes, the corridor has been planned to minimise disturbance to environmentally sensitive areas. Pipeline route planning incorporates assessment of environmental factors, sensitive receptors, existing infrastructure, topographical landscape and construction conditions, combining these into a route of least impact. As the pipeline easement is further refined, we will continue to prioritise avoiding areas of environmental significance.
28. What if its excess soil is contaminated?
This is extremely unlikely, but in any case excess soil would be disposed of accordingly. How contaminated soil is managed during construction will be detailed in the Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).
29. Does your project comply with Part A of the Water Act?
With respect to water, we will purchase water from organisations or individuals with an allocation, such as the Local Government. The project will not be a significant water user. We will not dispose of water except in accordance with licence conditions regarding disposal.
30. During the construction phase of the Central Ranges Pipeline between Dubbo and Tamworth, the pipes for the line were delivered and laid out ready for the installation through a property which is in this shire and consists of the same highly reactive black soil which is in the very majority of the Liverpool Plains Shire. It was recognised that the engineering behind the supplied pipes were inadequate for the highly reactive soil. They reloaded these pipes, which are a third of the size of your proposed pipes and removed them from the property and came back with a different design. Given the company at the time should have been aware of the soil type, what assurances can your company provide that your engineering and construction are of a level that exceed the risks of a pipeline fracture which could in turn contaminate our most precious natural resource, water?
HGP is acutely aware of the reactive soils of the Liverpool Plains. The questions asked have brought this into even greater focus. Our pipeline construction expert Bob Otjen has experience installing and operating pipelines in very similar soils in the coastal plains of Texas (US). These pipelines are of up to 36" in diameter. Professionally designed, specified, constructed and maintained these pipelines do not pose a problem. As part of the design and construction bidding process geotechnical studies will be undertaken. This will be including drilling investigative holes along the route.
31. What about biosecurity issues?
We are acutely aware of the need to manage weed and the spread of other biosecurity risks. We will have a detailed process outlined in our Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP), which is a secondary approval to be endorsed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment before construction starts.
32. What would make the pipe leak?
Pipelines leaks are rare, but where they occur, people using earth moving equipment like excavators; potential corrosion, or construction defects are the most likely causes. All care is taken to ensure these issues do not occur.
33. When you do the water pressure testing where do you get the water from and what do you do with it?
Hydrotesting is the preferred method of ensuring the pipeline does not leak. Generally, only short sections of the pipeline are tested at a time (about 5 km or so on flat land and less than that on hilly terrain).
The pipeline sections are left open after laying. Hydrotest equipment is connected to each end of the section of the buried pipe undergoing the test. The pipe is first cleaned by passing a cleaning tool through the pipeline (often referred to as a cleaning pig). The small amount of water and material collected from this cleaning is disposed of in accordance with the waste management plan.
Water is pumped into the pipe section. Water chemistry is important with this and there are typically limits on parameters such as hardness, pH, iron content, and turbidity. The water in the pipe is pressurised until it is about 125% of the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure of the pipeline in service. This pressure is held for 12 or 24 hours (depending on the type of test) to determine whether the pressure drops and the section assessed for leaks.
After the test the next section of the pipeline is cleaned and the hydrotest water is passed into the next section under test (i.e. recycled from one section to the next). At the final section the water is reclaimed for disposal.
34. In relation to the QHGP, what is the building standard for construction of high-pressure gas pipelines on vertisol soils? Is it the case that there is no standard?
Australian Standard AS2885 governs the design and construction of these pipelines. We are required to comply with this standard as a condition of the approval. The standard does not address specific soil types but does address the depth of burial in various locations. Prior to construction, geotechnical investigations will be undertaken to determine ditch design, soil horizons, backfilling requirements and reinstatement methods. The Roma to Brisbane pipeline built more than 40 years ago was successfully designed and constructed through the black soils of the Darling Downs.
35. What chemicals will be used to coat these pipelines for their life, that will then sit in aquifer recharge zones or possible the water table? What is the risk level for leaks, ruptured pipes and what are the repercussions for water systems above and below ground reserves of a high-pressure gas pipeline, or its associated infrastructure?
The coatings on the pipeline are made from epoxy or poly, the same as pipes used in agriculture, including to transport water; therefore, there would be no contamination.
The risk of leaks from the pipeline is engineered to be close to zero through various levels of protection: depth of cover over the pipeline, the cathodic protection (the small electrical current applied) to mitigate corrosion, and signage along the pipeline itself – advising of the buried pipeline. If, an incident occurred, the valve points (at pigging stations) are designed to shut down the pipeline in sections. These valve points are normally located at the edge of a road for ease of access and are approximately 100km apart along the pipeline. In more populous areas the valves may be located at intervals of less than 100 km. Natural gas is not a contaminant. Natural gas does not mix, react or dissolve with water. Natural gas is lighter than air and will dissipate into the atmosphere. Natural gas does not react with water and would never adversely impact the water quality.
36. Have Landholders along the corridor been contacted regarding the pipeline traversing their area or land?
Yes, there was extensive consultation with all stakeholders as part of the original approval of the pipeline corridor 10 years ago. The recent five-year extension to this approval means that HGP will embark on an equally extensive program over the next 6-12 months to identify specific landholder circumstances along the corridor and provide opportunities for community and stakeholder discussions about the pipeline. The time frame is now subject to the COVID-19 – it may be a little longer before we are physically back out visiting landholders.
37. What happens if landholders object to the project?
It is not unusual to receive objections to any linear infrastructure project whether it’s a road, railway or pipeline. We are committed to liaising with the corridor communities and collaborating closely with every single landholder along the corridor to minimise the disruption and construction impacts. The pipeline will run underground.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s notice of decision dated 17 October 2019 to support this 5 year extension stated that “the public submissions were primarily from residents living outside the local government areas where the approved pipeline would traverse (89% of total public submissions)”.
38. Will HGP pay fair compensation?
Yes, landholders will be treated fairly in compensation dealings. Valuation of land will be undertaken by registered and independent valuers with knowledge of the land in a particular area. HGP will pay landholders reasonable expenses associated with obtaining their own professional valuation and legal advice associated with executing an easement contract/s.
The Land Liaison Representative will discuss the project needs and negotiate final routes, easement and compensation with the landholder. We will use the services of a third-party valuation firm to determine appropriate compensation offers to affected landholder in relation to the acquisition of the easement.
39. Will all landholders be identified?
There are approximately 1370 discrete land parcels along the pipeline corridor. HGP has undertaken property searches of all land titles of those properties intersected by the pipeline route. We will be contacting all registered landholders intersected by the pipeline route over the next six to 12 months.
40. Extreme rain events are a major concern. We experience unpredictable storms and heavy rain. The area is not as flat as that over which the Cooper River runs, therefore the flow of storm water is faster and therefore potentially more damaging in terms of soil erosion. Who is responsible for this particularly if farming land is lost?
The pipeline will be constructed for the conditions – that includes the type of soil, the lay of the land and the propensity to flooding. Pipelines run through many areas prone to flooding, including the Cooper Creek. These pipelines have been in place for decades and no issues have been encountered. In the past, when the pipeline is buried on floodplains, or across water courses, we would use construction techniques such as screw anchors, concrete weights or concrete coating onto pipeline sections to weigh specific sections down. We don’t expect any farming land would be lost. If there were any adverse impacts as a result of the pipeline construction, then the company who owns the pipeline would be responsible for its repair.
41. In 2008 farmers were asked to sign access agreements. There was no documentation around vermin control, repairs and maintenance. Who is responsible for what? It is not in the agreement.
Access at that time was required to undertake studies only. These issues will be addressed in access agreements relating to construction and operation of the pipeline. Landholders will not have to pay for additional fences and gates needed to protect farmed animals during construction and later from the pipeline.
An independent valuation for compensation would be commissioned.
42. Who would be responsible for the cost of legal fees for solicitors to inspect documentation?
Once the route is finalised, then agreements would be produced. Reasonable landholder legal costs would be paid by the pipeline company.
43. There has been no correspondence with landholders since 2011.
HGP will be sending letters to individual landholders over the next twelve (12) months. We will also endeavour to have meetings with all impacted landholders during this time.
44. What about the use of heavy equipment over the pipeline 35 tonne equipment currently being used, this could increase as newer machinery is produced.
When we speak with the individual landholders regarding access agreements, and site conditions and land use, we will determine what machinery is used. We can bury the pipeline deeper to accommodate heavier than normal vehicle use.
45. What are the legacy issues for current and future landholders?
Once the pipeline construction is complete and the land surface rehabilitated there are few ongoing issues for landholders. During the operating life of the pipeline no structures can be built, no water is to be impounded, and no trees can be permitted within close proximity of the pipeline. This is to allow access to the entire length of the pipeline if needed.
46. If landowners don’t want HGP on their land what will you do? Will you force them?
HGP wishes to negotiate with landholders for the placement of the pipeline. HGP may have the right of resumption but this is part of the pipeline licencing process and the licencing department makes sure that all avenues of negotiation and possible relocation have been explored and exhausted.
47. Quite few pipelines have been taken to court. In Russia and Europe where they have been shown to leak?
If a pipeline leaks and causes damage the operating company is responsible for those damages. If a third party causes the pipeline to leak then that third party would be liable for those damages. The Australian pipeline industry is proud of its track record of safe, sustainable operations over many decades.
48. What is the minimum distance from a house on a farm?
There is no specified minimum distance required but appropriate safety measures would be taken. When finalising the route alignment maps, consideration given to minimising any impact that pipeline operations would have on a landholder’s residence.
49. What about people who didn’t know about the pipeline when they bought the properties? Who is responsible for putting this pipeline corridor on maps so people are aware before they buy?
When the easement is granted this is registered, by the company, on property titles and will be identified during any searches conducted during changes of ownership. The surveyed alignment will be added to property survey plans.
50. What about valuation issues?
During the negotiation process the pipeline company will pay reasonable costs for a landholder to obtain a property valuation to assist them. The pipeline company will also obtain a valuation which will be used by the pipeline company to determine the offer to obtain an easement.
51. NSW Farmers Association have alerted the rural community that “a major farm insurer is refusing to provide public liability insurance cover for farms that has CSG infrastructure on their property”. How is it that insurance companies are heading towards not insuring against this risk of CSG infrastructure on the property, yet Hunter Gas Pipeline are suggesting there is no/minimal risk?
Our project is a pipeline. It is not CSG infrastructure. The general insurance, oil and gas, and agriculture industries confirm that general insurance policies for farm risk continue to remain available, through various insurers, to farmers who host natural gas activities. We’ve had advice from insurance company JMD Ross Insurance Brokers. They have advised that there should not be impediments in landowners obtaining or maintaining insurance as a number of properties would already have either electricity line, gas or water pipelines being situated on their land. Insurers do not ask if there are any of these on the land when underwriting. All of our contractors have their own public liability, professional indemnity and workers compensation insurances as part of their conditions to deliver the contracted work.
52. What happens if we agist stock and we have to relocate them during construction? Who pays for this?
All construction impact costs are borne by the pipeline company including costs to relocate stock, temporary fencing or other activities required to make safe your property or activities during construction.
53. Will the property devalue because of the pipeline and will you compensate?
Property values are unlikely to be affected by this underground pipeline, however we will meet reasonable independent legal and valuation costs on behalf of the landholder. The pipeline company will compensate for all crop losses or other income loss due to construction, and property value loss as negotiated.
54. What does the required 24hr access and right of way the company will acquire with the final negotiation of a 30m wide easement over land, actually look like? And furthermore, what does it look like on black soil landscapes after significant rain events?
HGP would not enter land without the knowledge of the landholder except in the case of emergency. Generally, in the case where soil conditions preclude access following rain, inspections would be conducted by aerial survey (helicopter or drone).
Scheduled maintenance/inspection would not be conducted during or following adverse weather conditions and would be negotiated with landholders with respect to time of inspection and the maintenance activities to be conducted.
55. Will local irrigation cropping farmers affected by these 30m wide easements be able to farm over the top of these pipelines, and irrigate as normal, especially on black soil?
Irrigation, cropping and other agricultural activities should not be adversely affected. Gas pipelines and farms coexist throughout the world. While building houses, sheds and dams above the pipeline for example will not be permitted, normal grazing and cropping can continue following construction and commissioning.
56. What does 24hr access and a right of way look like when there is perhaps a 2-metre-tall corn crop over the top of the route?
24 hours access is only required where there is emergency repairs required to the pipe. For normal inspection aerial surveys would be conducted. Access requirements would be notified to the landholder and a suitable time arranged with the landholder.
Unless there is an urgent need to undertake repairs disturbance of the crop would not be required.
57. Is it the case that landholders may be limited, once the pipeline is laid, to the current developments on their properties? Will small landholders with such easements be limited and unable to build significant infrastructure such as buildings or houses, given that you can’t build within the easement? Arguably that could limit the future value of their land.
Restrictions would apply within the easement, but not on the entire property. HGP will negotiate compensation for the easement. While existing land use can continue, like any linear infrastructure (overhead lines, underground lines, roads, rail corridors, water and gas pipelines), future hardstand developments are not permitted. During the refinement of the route alignment map HGP will collaborate with each landholder to identify the best location for the pipeline on their property. We also need to consider constructability and environmental constraints during refinement of these maps. We have also developed the approved corridor in collaboration with all of the local councils to identify future development zones, so they have been avoided. Our intention is to minimise impacts but once the pipeline is built, and the easements confirmed, no fixed buildings can be erected over the pipeline.
Construction and Operation Issues
58. Is it practical and safe to farm over the top of the pipeline?
Yes, gas pipelines and farms coexist throughout the world. While building houses, sheds and dams for example will not be permitted above the pipeline, normal grazing and cropping can continue following construction and commissioning.
59. Will roads be closed during construction?
HGP accepts that road access is important during construction. HGP will use construction techniques, such as under boring formed roads or constructing temporary slip lanes (adjacent to existing formed roads) to ensure existing road use can remain during construction. Where necessary traffic controls will be used to ensure public safety.
60. Will blasting occur on the route?
HGP will undertake a constructability survey prior to construction. This survey will determine whether blasting of rock is necessary. Blasting is a last resort on pipeline construction with that other techniques, such as rock sawing preferable. Additionally, any blasts are designed to fracture rock without dislocating material. There is a difference between blasting for pipeline construction and mining: Mine blasts are designed to move significant rock overburden (often totalling in excess of 100,000m3 of material) to enable recovery of minerals, whereas pipeline construction blasting is smaller and designed to fracture but not to dislocate the rock to enable trenching. Construction methods used for other local infrastructure does not provide any guidance on whether blasting will be required for a pipeline construction.
61. Who will undertake blasting activities?
Licensed specialist sub-contractors would be engaged to conduct any blasting activities.
62. Will explosives be stored on site?
No. Explosives would be transported to site only if required.
63. Are the noise and vibration limits on blasting?
Yes, HGP approval conditions specify compliance requirements for noise and vibration from blasting.
64. Will local traffic constraints affect construction transport?
Prior to construction, we will consult with local councils to determine the limitations of local roads and bridges. Where bridges and other road infrastructure is not suitable for the projected construction loads then alternate routes will be used. Additionally, road condition or pavement survey will be undertaken along local transport routes to build a baseline of information and determine whether the road network has deteriorated as a result of pipeline activities and the applicable degree of remediation. Project information will also be published at the local council offices and in local media publications.
If at any time access needs to be interrupted, advance notice will be provided, and steps taken to minimize any inconvenience. If required, there will be steel road plates on-site that can provide a safe vehicle crossing of an open trench, etc.
65. Can emergency services access construction or nearby sites?
We will consult with Emergency Services in the area to discuss access, transport and management issues associated with the construction. The input of Emergency Services will be sought in the development of Emergency Response Plan and related management plans developed for use during construction and operation. HGP acknowledges that maintaining local access during construction is essential.
66. Are open trenches monitored to prevent wildlife entrapment?
Yes, it is standard practice to monitor any open trenches daily to recover and release trapped fauna. A variety of techniques are used to prevent harm to fauna being trapped during construction including the use of escape ramps to enable large fauna to escape, providing moistened bags and straw at regular intervals (typically 50 – 100m) to provide shelter to reptile species and small mammals. Certified fauna spotter/catchers inspect the open trench early each morning to recover fauna which are then released.
67. Will rehabilitation include replanting vegetation?
Yes, it is standard practice in pipeline construction to rehabilitate using native species typically found in the local area. Following construction, the temporary construction workspace is restored as close as possible to its original condition prior to construction and in a manner agreed with the landholder and in accordance with regulatory requirements.
Cleared vegetation on the easement can be mulched and spread across the easement as appropriate or managed in a manner agreed with the landholder. In open grazing lands a suitable improved pasture mix is typically used with a sterile cover crop to assist with pasture establishment. In cropping lands, the restoration is dependent on seasonal and the surrounding cropping regimes. In all instances, we collaborate closely with the landholder to determine the most appropriate rehabilitation regime.
68. When is rehabilitation undertaken?
Restoration of the Right of Way (ROW) commences as soon as the pipeline is buried. The area is recontoured and any slopes re-established. The topsoil is respread over the ROW. Depending on the rehabilitation plan for the site (e.g. native vegetation or improved pasture) seed, tubestock, hydromulches or similar are used. Generally, a sterile cover crop is used to assist with managing issues such as weed germination or soil erosion. Rehabilitation is monitored over time to ensure the efficacy of the program and enable remediation as necessary. Landholders are consulted throughout the process.
69. How will fire risk be managed?
HGP has a strict “no burning” policy that will apply to the pipeline construction. Cleared vegetation will not be burnt. Cooking using open flames will not be permitted at any time.
An emergency response plan will be developed and provided for comment to emergency services prior to construction. This plan will consider the risk associated with local bushfire outbreaks or burn offs or high-risk fire periods. The plan will apply to the construction areas, camps and laydown or equipment storage areas including workshops. Smoking will not be permitted, except for designated smoking areas where fire can be managed. No smoking will be permitted in construction vehicles. Breaches of the fire and smoking policies are regarded as disciplinary matters that may result in dismissal of the personnel involved.
70. Will gas be released from the pipe during operations?
No. It is not necessary to flare or vent the gas from the pipeline during normal pipeline operation.
71. Will construction proceed at night?
Generally, no. Construction will be during hours permitted under the regulatory approvals and generally only during daylight hours. Certain construction operations (such as hydrotesting where a pipeline integrity test of 24-hour duration is conducted) will require limited night works. This would be planned in consultation with potentially affected residents, to minimise impact to them. Where night works are necessary the customary practice for pipeline construction lighting is to minimise light spill beyond the immediate area and to minimise noise.
72. Will vehicle speeds be restricted?
Yes, speed restrictions are used along the ROW to reduce noise and dust from vehicles travelling along the ROW. These restrictions are enforced using electronic monitoring of construction and delivery vehicles, or IVMS (Intelligent Vehicle Monitoring Systems).
73. Will helicopter surveillance of the pipeline occur?
Following construction, several pipeline monitoring and inspection techniques are used to check integrity of the pipeline and easement. These include electronic monitoring (such as pressure drop, voltage of cathodic protection), physical monitoring (driving along the easement, helicopter fly overs) or remote sensing. Of the monitoring techniques helicopter flyovers are infrequent for pipelines and conducted at higher altitude than powerline inspection/maintenance works. Any helicopter surveillance will be carried out at an altitude that will not affect stock movements and landholders will be consulted first.
74. Will roads be impacted during construction?
Traffic management conditions requires roads to be ‘trafficable’ at all times. This means our construction methods would include either under boring the road, creating a temporary slip lane or similar technique that always maintains road access.
75. We are concerned with open cut construction and the risk of a flood event causing soil erosion. This is a flood plain and has a natural drainage system. Will the pipeline move in a flood event?
No, the pipeline will be constructed for the conditions, and post-construction land rehabilitation will ensure natural drainage is not affected. As an example, Bob Otjen, (HGP’s pipeline expert), has described the construction of a pipeline he managed from Ballera to Wallumbilla in Queensland. That pipeline crosses the Cooper Creek (which is 40kms wide during floods). The Cooper floods very intermittently so the pipe was buried a little deeper. It was constructed in 1996 and no issues have been encountered.
76. Where are the cleaning and maintenance points located and how often are they cleaned?
The valve points are normally located at the edge of a road for ease of access. Pigging stations – from where pipeline inspection gauges are deployed – are approximately 100km apart. You can shut down the pipeline at these stations. The costs of repairs to the facilities and easement are the responsibility of the pipeline.
77. How regularly will maintenance people go onto properties?
Inspections are carried out by several methods including walking, drones, helicopters, planes or driving. The location of the pipeline determines how it is inspected. These inspections usually take place once per quarter and the landholder will be notified prior to the inspection if entry to the property is needed, except in the event of an emergency.
Approximately every five (5) years, a detailed inspection of the pipeline and the surrounding soil is undertaken. The biggest threat to a pipeline is an excavation or digging over the pipe.
78. When the pipes are cleaned, how much debris/waste is removed?
There are usually a few kgs of powder collected in a small tray and disposed of appropriately.
79. Will the gas be exported?
No. The gas will be piped to Newcastle and may be utilised by the electricity network along the way and industrial/domestic consumers in NSW.
80. What about the use of heavy equipment (up to 35 tonne) over the pipeline? This could increase as newer machinery is produced.
Farm machinery will be able to cross the pipeline without harming the machinery, the pipeline or the land. When we speak with the individual landholders regarding access agreements, and site conditions and land use, we will determine what machinery is used. We can bury the pipeline deeper to accommodate heavier than normal vehicle use.
81. We have earthquakes. What safety measures are in place to protect against risks to pipeline rupture from earthquakes?
Welded natural gas pipelines are very resistant to earth movement. In areas where movements are known or suspected the pipeline is bedded in a softer material (usually sand) and the pipe is “snaked” into the ditch which gives extra slack for movement.
82. Will you be digging up the pipeline after its life cycle, if and when they cease to exist?
Normally pipelines are depressurised; the cathodic protection turned off and then left in place. Removal of the pipeline will cause as much or more disruption than the original construction.
83. What does the pipeline monitoring program consist of?
A fibre optic cable is laid in the same trench as the pipeline and is used to monitor the pipeline. The monitoring program is a variety of measures to make sure the pipeline is safe:
•Continuous monitoring of pressures along the system to make sure no unintended pressure variation is experienced.
•Continuous monitoring of the cathodic current output of the rectifiers is also done.
•Continuous monitoring of the gas quality entering the systems is done to make sure no deleterious elements enter the system
•Regular visual inspections of the pipeline route (usually quarterly) are undertaken
•At greater intervals (usually about every 5 years) a device known as a pig is put through the pipeline to look for defects. This device is usually a magnetic flux leakage (MFL) machine. MFL tools are very accurate and can delineate the size and location of any corrosion on or in a pipeline.
84. How do you detect leakage?
Leakage is detected by pressure monitoring at places along the pipeline. Unexplained pressure situations are then investigated.
85. How long are the ditches exposed for and what soil do you use?
Soil is put back at the same contour. We use the soil that was excavated to recontour the pipeline. We would do it during a dry period.
86. What do you do with the excess soil – your pipeline is 600m wide, so they’ll be a lot of soil left over?
We give that option to the landholder. Or we truck it off and dispose of in accordance with Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP).
87. Where would you do horizontal boring?
This method is used to bore under railway lines, paved roads and gravel roads depending on the impacts determines whether we would bore underneath.
88. How often do you inspect the pipeline?
We do detailed inspections 5 years which that look at the cathodic protection along the entire pipeline, to ensure it is correct at every location of the pipeline. We do a 3-month inspection usually by air (drone, helicopter, light plane) to check for erosion or whether people are doing anything over the pipeline that is inappropriate.
89. How do you mitigate against those risks of erosion?
Best mitigation is to bury the pipe deeper. We might also put concrete slabbing over the pipe where it may be at risk.
90. What about farmers who are looking at laser levelling of their fields?
In some areas, when we know this, and we can bury the pipe deeper as appropriate.
91. How do you compact the black soils after you bury the pipe? Will we be left with a mound a foot high?
The soil will settle after disturbance. We will spread the soil from the ditch across the 30m Right of Way as well as the excavated area. This will ensure there is no obvious mound. A major part of the inspection is to make sure we haven’t created a water channel along the pipeline.
92. What is the average length of a work site?
We usually work in two major sections at a time. Then we usually have smaller special crews for example doing road crossings and creek crossings. We try to minimise the amount of time to complete sections. In open country such as north of the Liverpool Range, a construction and installation is done in sections between 10 to 15 kilometres long. In more populous areas, this work area is shorter as the work is slower due to more roads, fences, and other infrastructure. In the open country the crews would normally install 4 to 5 kilometres per day. In the more populous areas, the installation rate would be more in the range of 1 to 2 kilometres per day.
93. Are there rises/markers along the pipeline?
Regulation requires us to locate pipeline markers so that you can see at least two of them from where you are standing. The distance between the markers will vary depending on the terrain.
94. What about bends in the pipeline? Do you put a riser at a bend?
95. We do not want to see a white elephant built and left underground after its use.
It is common practice to leave pipelines in situ after their use has expired. If landholders would like it removed, we can include those terms in the easement negotiations.
Above ground infrastructure (such as mainline valves) are removed for disposal and the land associated with these structures is rehabilitated. The pipeline is purged and there are no combustible gases remaining. Removing the pipe will require disturbing the ground (the full 30 metre easement) digging and exposing the pipe and cutting it into sections to be removed on trucks. The ground would then be rehabilitated.
HGP will comply with all standards when the pipeline is due for decommissioning.
96. If required how will repairs be made to the pipeline?
Inspections are carried out by several methods including walking, drones, helicopters, planes or driving, to ensure the ongoing pipeline integrity. The location of the pipeline determines how it is inspected. These inspections usually take place once per quarter and the landholder will be notified prior to the inspection if entry to the property is needed, except in the event of an emergency.
Repairs are dependent on the nature of the issue requiring repair. Where a coating requires repair, or an inspection made following damage caused by a strike from farm machinery the covering over the pipeline would be excavated in that section and the inspection and repair made. If necessary (in the extremely rare case where a machinery strike has resulted in a pipeline leak) the flow of gas would be stopped upstream and downstream, the gas vented at a mainline valve station the pipeline would be exposed in the location of the repair by digging up a section above the pipeline to gain access. The pipeline would be repaired and recoated and then the area would be restored.
97. What does 24hr access and a right of way look like when there is perhaps a 2-metre-tall corn crop over the top of the route?
24 hours access is only required where there is emergency repairs required to the pipe. For normal inspection aerial surveys would be conducted. Access requirements would be notified to the landholder and a suitable time arranged with the landholder.
Unless there is an urgent need to undertake repairs disturbance of the crop would not be required.