McConnell Dowell completes NT pipeline and facilities work

A critical part of developing the Northern Territory’s gas infrastructure network has been connecting the Ichthys Project to existing gas facilities in the Territory.

In December 2014, Power and Water Corporation NT awarded McConnell Dowell a contract to design, procure, construct and commission metering skids and an interconnecting 12 inch pipeline for gas transmission between the existing Wickham Point Pipeline and INPEX’s gas plant at Blaydin Point in Darwin.

Not only will the pipeline provide gas to the Ichthys Project, but it will also provide a means of emergency gas supply for Territorians, according to McConnell Dowell Project Manager David Bird.

Design work for McConnell Dowell commenced in December 2014, and construction was complete in November 2015. Commissioning of the facility and pipeline is scheduled to commence shortly.

Local contractors

Of strong concern to gas industry operators and contractors operating in the Northern Territory is the successful engagement of local contractors, so to ensure a legacy for Territorians after construction has subsided.

“McConnell Dowell used many local subcontractors in Darwin during the construction, and the detailed design and procurement of the skids was undertaken in Melbourne. Although we looked internationally we ultimately selected a Melbourne company, Furnace Engineering,” said Mr Bird.

According to Mr Bird, overwhelmingly skids are produced in Asia, and are less frequently produced locally. Local Darwin subcontractors were used for pipe fabrication, civil work and electrical work.

In addition to sourcing local contractors, Mr Bird says that McConnell Dowell was also able to use local employees rather than employ FIFO workers.

“Darwin has been great; there is a very good depth of talent here. There’s been so many mining jobs around over the last 10 or 15 years, so there are plenty of good tradesmen,” said Mr Bird.

New direction for the pipeline

According to Power and Water Corporation’s Construction Supervisor Peter Darby, having the company own its own pipeline is a new direction for the organisation.

“The majority of the gas network [infrastructure] in the Northern Territory is not owned and operated by the government; Power and Water own the gas and get it transported by others to the user. In the case of this pipeline, it was slightly different – we made a strategic decision to own the asset.”

For McConnell Dowell, the innovation was around optimising the design, manufacture and construction of the skid to ensure a cost-effective project.

“I think actually ending up with one skid that was transportable by road was a great outcome of this process. When you talk about transporting a skid across the country, or from overseas, is a difficult operation,” said Mr Darby.

“One of the first things we did on this job was have a design workshop in the boardroom of McConnell Dowell’s office down in Melbourne. So we got Power and Water down from Darwin, and we got Furnace Engineering and Aurecon in as Power and Water Corp.‘s designers, and from there we reviewed all the different disciplines over a whole day and really nutted it out. This collaboration yielded immediate benefits.”

Another innovation for the project was in logistics.

“For McConnell Dowell, a critical part of the job was ensuring the constructability suits the timeline of the dry season. The whole operation was programmed to complete construction, start to finish, in one dry season.”

Working with a live gas site

Another big area of focus for McConnell Dowell and Power & Water Corporation was working in a live gas environment.

“I couldn’t underestimate the requirements of working in a live gas environment,” says Mr Darby.

There’s high risks involved, seconds Mr Bird, tying into a pipeline that’s a live, active pipeline that was built 10 years ago.

“A lot of the work McConnell Dowell did was about building relationships as well, with our owner team and also with all affected stakeholders,” said Mr Darby.

Mr Bird concurs. “A big ticket item that McConnell Dowell has been able to bring to this job – and I think it actually is McConnell Dowell’s strength – is the engagement and upskilling of smaller local subcontractors who may not have all the requisite safety procedures up to the standard required to comply with the oil and gas industry.

“However, we’ve been able to tap into the local subcontractor skills and capacity by providing management system and processes assistance and working collaboratively to anticipate and resolve issues before they occur. This has been a win-win for all parties involved. An example is the use of McConnell Dowell templates for Safe Work Method Statements.

“It becomes their document, and therefore we have upskilled that company. Our civil contractor is a great example of that here, and he’s really embraced it and adopted it, he’s been a great success story and we look forward to other opportunities to work together.”

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