An explosive anniversary

Perth, Australia, which was affected by the Varanus Island explosion.

Perth, Australia, which was affected by the Varanus Island explosion.

It is seven years since the Varanus Island gas explosion off the coast of Western Australia.

On 3 June 2008, a corroded pipeline ruptured and exploded on the Varanus Island gas processing plant off Karratha. This one incident reduced Western Australia’s gas supply by a third for two months, costing the state economy up to $3 billion. Fortunately, none of the 153 staff members were injured.

The impacts of a ruptured gas pipeline are wide reaching and life threatening. There are many potential causes for a pipeline incident, but the biggest single threat is excavation damage.

The simplest and most effective way to communicate the presence and location of a buried utility is an effective above ground marker.

Overgrown, broken, or non-existent permanent markers that fail to alert potential excavators of the presence of a buried pipeline present a serious risk.

Pipeline markers come in many shapes and sizes, but their effectiveness is based on a similar set of characteristics, including:

  • Visibility: Can the warning message, not just the marker, be seen from any direction, not just the front and back?
  • Message design: Is the message clear and easy to read from a distance?
  • Safety: Is the marker you install in the right-of-way safe? What happens if a mower, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or cyclist accidentally runs into the marker?

What is the purpose of a permanent marker from a damage prevention perspective?

It has to be reminding potential excavators to locate the pipeline before digging.

An effective warning message design is one that uses sharply contrasting colours and provides maximum visibility. It should feature the Dial Before You Dig symbol, alerting excavators to locate all buried facilities before digging.

In order to accurately locate the buried pipeline, the excavator needs to request maps from Dial Before You Dig and/or the utility provider.

The leaders in excavation safety in North America are Rhino Marking Systems.

Rhino’s durable plastic solutions are designed to maximise the visibility and durability of pipeline markers, while making them customisable to each utility owner’s requirements.

Rhino’s TriView marker post, for example, is triangular in shape, giving it 360 degree visibility. This provides 50 per cent more signage than the traditional steel post with two signs.

The aim is to ensure an excavator can see the marker from any direction.

The posts are also designed for durability – made from Rhinopoly, TriView posts don’t need painting and will bounce back if impacted by animals or vehicles.

TriView also comes in a tracer wire or corrosion test station version.

Rhino products are distributed in Australasia by Tapex and are part of a total excavation safety suite of products, including Copperhead tracer wire, Wavelay detectable warning tapes and Omni RFID marker balls.

For more information, visit www.tapex.com.au.

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