The importance of strong supply chain logistics

An A-double road train in Brisbane with drill casing located on pipe bolsters.

An A-double road train in Brisbane with drill casing located on pipe bolsters.

Strong supply chain logistics are crucial for the oil and gas industry, particularly in the high cost, low price environment of Australian operations.

Gas Today speaks with Qube Energy General Manager Leatrice Grundy about some key strategies she has employed to ensure an immediate and efficient logistical response to any stakeholder requirement.

Operating under the Qube Holdings banner, Qube’s Energy division provides comprehensive support for the high pressure pipeline and infrastructure industry via a range of integrated solutions.

Qube has further established itself in the oil and gas sector by providing clients with innovative and reliable stevedoring and logistics support, while Ms Grundy says an important skill for any logistics strategy is the ability to be agile and flexible to clients’ needs, which requires innovation.

Flexibility for a quick response

Ms Grundy says an essential characteristic for any logistics company is the ability to provide a flexible solution for clients.

With key projects for the group including work on APA Group’s Victorian Northern Interconnect Expansion (VNIE) Project and Origin Energy’s Halladale and Speculant Gas Project, also in Victoria, Qube has been responsible for a massive shipment of pipe delivered to the Port of Melbourne from China in early 2015.

“I think having a level of flexibility for clients is critical,” Ms Grundy says.

“Once the pipe arrives we’ve got all these other complexities in place; construction contracts and operators, inductions that need to be done.

“Unfortunately you can’t run a wharf or a transport business like a bus timetable. It just does not work that way in this industry.

“There’s a lot of juggling, that’s for sure.”

Innovate to succeed

Employing over 5,500 people as Australia’s largest integrated provider of import and export logistics services, Ms Grundy says innovation has allowed the company to service the oil and gas industry effectively through an integrated supply chain solution stretching across Australia and New Zealand.

Qube’s capability and focus on innovation extends across all Australian states and includes:

  • Freight forwarding and customs clearance
  • Stevedoring
  • Specialist equipment for pipe handling, including in-house designed pipe hooks for coated line pipe discharge, vacuum lifts and an advanced stock pile system for storage at Qube facilities
  • Load out and delivery to end destination points in sequential order
  • Logistics and inventory stock management reporting.
  • One example of an innovative approach for Qube Energy involved the creation of an A-double combination to transport drill casing from the Port of Brisbane under a contract with MITO to distribute casing from the Port of Brisbane to Miles for QGC.

This contract has been running successfully for the past three years with Qube’s introduction of many innovations to improve efficiency, productivity and eliminate safety risks on the transport and handling legs.

Some innovations that Qube introduced on the contract include:

  • The design and patent of casing bolsters
  • Transport of casing on A-double road trains with a payload of 49.3 t, substantially reducing truck movements and safety risk to all road users
  • Use of a Toowoomba facility as a hub for deliveries to Miles, allowing the company to change out drivers at the facility for onward delivery to Miles and thus avoid any driver fatigue issues
  • Use of a distribution centre on Fisherman Island for storage of casing, in order to arrange orderly delivery flows to the Marubeni casing yard in Miles, with the Fisherman Island and Miles distribution centres providing vital overflow areas for surge demand
  • Use of a vast fleet of prime movers and trailers positioned on the transport route of Brisbane Port to westward destinations, such as Toowoomba and the Surat Basin.

Road restrictions between the port and Toowoomba also required a unique solution to complete the contract, which resulted in a shorter trailer length.

“What we do is generally run those A-double trailers on circuit, so between Brisbane and Toowoomba around the clock to move that cargo,” Ms Grundy says.

“We’ve then got a facility in Toowoomba where we swap drivers, so that’s how we manage fatigue and our trailer swap outs.”

Learning from this experience, Ms Grundy says an ability to adapt to different scenarios is imperative for any logistics company to remain competitive.

Not only does an effective logistics strategy require getting a product from A to B, but the ability to innovate and adapt is a crucial ingredient for success in this industry.

Integrated supply chain logistics were utilised by Qube for Tranche 1 and 2 of the Victorian Northern Interconnect Expansion (VNIE) Project.

The VNIE Project involved looping sections of the existing 260 km Victorian Northern Interconnect (VNI) Pipeline to increase capacity, as well as increasing compression capacity north and south of the VNI. One of the biggest challenges of the VNIE project was the logistics of transporting 162 km of pipe sourced from overseas.

Qube was contracted by Bao Australia to manage the supply chain for Tranche 1 and 2 of the VNIE Pipeline Project, from vessel management to pipe laydown at Wallan, Tallarook and Benalla in central Victoria.

The contract included:

  • Full project management
  • Stevedoring at Qube’s South Wharf facility in the Port of Melbourne
  • Storage and stockpile management
  • Transport of the pipe to the lay down areas at Wallan, Tallarook and Benalla in central Victoria
  • Crane loading operations to unload pipe into the lay down areas at respective locations.
  • Logistical challenges

The cargo of pipe reached Australia in four shipments, with two shipments for each tranche.

Qube unloaded a massive 10,500 individual pipe lengths in the Melbourne Docklands and, despite the large size of the shipments, the unloading of the pipe was seamless.

The transport to sites in northern regional Victoria was also challenging, with as many as 680 truckloads required to shift the pipe to construction sites.

The pipe was successfully transported by Qube on extendable trailers with between 8 and 11 trailer loads delivered to respective sites daily.

The first 30 km of pipe was transported to Wallan just north of Melbourne, and the remaining 130 km of pipe was taken to locations at Tallarook and Benalla.

Given the size and importance of the expansion project, Qube was on the front foot at all times, managing the complex communication required between the many stakeholders involved, including the pipeline supplier Bao Australia, the shipping line delivering the pipe into South Wharf, Port of Melbourne, and APA Group.

Stakeholder engagement was critical to being well-prepared for the arrival of the shipments and to ensure that all parties were fully equipped with the documented procedures for handling of coated line pipe. This ensured the safety and integrity of both employees and the line pipe at all times.

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