Distribution, Gas, Markets, Technology

Increasing gas demand prompts distribution network expansion

With gas distribution networks covering Victoria and New South Wales, Jemena and SP AusNet are working to improve natural gas access for customers.

More customers want gas

SP AusNet Gas Networks Assets Manager Nithi Nithianandan says that the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will trigger significant increases in the demand for cheaper energy solutions, such as natural gas, as will growth in the Melbourne metropolitan area.

“As the Melbourne metropolitan area continues to expand, so too does the gas network, providing access to low cost and efficient energy to the ever growing city. New housing estates, government-backed incentives to buy new homes and even the construction of larger scale homes all result in increasing demands for energy,”? says Mr Nithianandan.

SP AusNet foresees a potential doubling in the demand for natural gas over the next fifteen years, with Victoria and New South Wales expected to be the biggest areas for network growth.

With this in mind, significant expansion and maintenance works are being undertaken on distribution infrastructure around Australia.

To meet the needs of its growing customer base, SP AusNet conducts regular maintenance checks, including:

  • Checking pipeline pressures at network fringe points every year and carefully modelling the network, incorporating projected growth.
  • Identifying the need for network upgrades or extensions.
  • Constructing supply mains at higher pressures – traditionally 515 kilopascals (kPa) and now pressures can go up to 900 kPa.
  • The introduction of systems to better control network pressures, using remote telemetry – pressures are monitored in real time allowing rapid responses to changes in customer demand
  • .

Jemena extends its reach

In Victoria, Jemena is rehabilitating parts of the Multinet Gas network, as well as being the project manager for the construction, operation and maintenance of the Multinet Gas extension programs in South Gippsland and the Yarra Ranges to meet growing demand for natural gas.

The South Gippsland Natural Gas Project is a $50 million transmission and distribution pipeline project supplying natural gas to five regional Victorian towns. In the hilly South Gippsland area, Jemena encountered difficult terrain, such as unstable land areas and road/railway crossings that were subject to land slipping, flood prone or located in swampland. Techniques to overcome these terrain challenges involved the use of foam trench breakers, developing new brackets for the pipeline, or new installation methods to accommodate the pipeline in certain locations. Jemena also overcame a number of commercial and regulatory barriers to finalise a gas retailer and arrange supply to the first resident in March 2009.

Construction on this project was due for completion at the end of 2009 with Jemena having installed over 220 kilometres of supply and distribution mains, including a number of new infrastructure facilities. Almost 1,000 residents have been connected to natural gas since March 2009 and five regional towns now have access to natural gas, with Inverloch the last town in the project to get connected in December 2009.

Jemena’s Yarra Ranges Natural Gas Project was completed in late 2008, resulting in the installation of approximately 180 km of new gas distribution mains and infrastructure. To date, the project has connected over 3,900 Yarra Ranges residents in nine small towns on the outskirts of Melbourne.

In New South Wales, the company’s gas network provides natural gas to approximately one million customers in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and more than 20 country centres. The company has started work on what will be one of its major projects in 2010 – rehabilitating the 350 mm diameter steel secondary main line between Wakehurst Parkway and Warringah. The line services increasing consumption loads along the length of Sydney’s northern beaches.

Jemena has started on engineering investigations to overcome a significant technological challenge the project poses. Previous rehabilitation projects have been on low and medium pressure sections of the network, where the length of pipe inserted in each section is typically approximately 100 metres. The Wakehurst Parkway rehabilitation project involves a cutting-edge solution requiring the insertion of high-pressure plastic pipe. The associated construction costs mean that, for the project to be commercially viable, the company will have to find a way to pull the gas pipe through distances of between 400 m and 1 km. Current technical investigations are focusing on material properties and construction methodologies.

The company recently completed two other major rehabilitation projects in New South Wales: the Macquarie Fields project, which started in November 2008 and includes 17 km of mains and 900 services and meter sets, and the Liverpool-Smithfield project, which involved rehabilitating some 38 km of gas mains in the Liverpool-Smithfield area.

These projects are aimed at fixing network leakage and ensuring the future integrity of its gas pipes. Over 5,500 km of gas distribution network infrastructure has been rehabilitated since 1987, including 150-year-old cast iron gas mains in the Sydney distribution network and old high-density polyurethane pipes.

A future in gas distribution

The scope of works undertaken by Jemena highlights the company’s commitment to securing the future of natural gas distribution. As for
SP AusNet, “Delivering natural gas to these new areas is not something that happens overnight,”? says Mr Nithianandan, but as demand for natural gas continues to grow, the company “will be working and planning to ensure that our customers receive the reliable supply of energy they need.”?

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