Basin review, Markets

Kipper Tuna Turrum- the key to a booming Bass Strait

ExxonMobil Australia’s Kipper Tuna Turrum (KTT) development, which began construction in mid-2010, is currently the largest domestic gas development on the eastern seaboard. When completed, more than 3,000 people will have been involved in the project during construction, including engineering, project management, fabrication and offshore construction.

The $4 billion project involves the development of two new fields: Kipper and Turrum, and the further development of the Tuna reservoir. Gas produced in the Bass Strait will be piped to the onshore facilities at Longford, comprising three gas processing plants and one crude oil stabilisation plant. Construction of the Kipper facility is expected to be completed in 2012 with first production estimated in 2013, following installation of mercury removal facilities. Turrum is expected to start up in 2013.


The Kipper Field is a joint venture between ExxonMobil subsidiary Esso Australia Resources, BHP Billiton and Santos, and is located approximately 45 km off the Gippsland coast in 100 m of water. Discovered in 1986, it is estimated to hold 620 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of recoverable gas. When complete, it will be able to produce 10,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of condensate and 80 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of gas.

To develop the field, subsea facilities including two wells, four coolers and a manifold will be tied back to the existing West Tuna platform by a dual 350 mm diameter, 18 km tie-back pipeline and umbilical.

In 2010 the first two Kipper subsea wells were successfully drilled, completed, and production tested and the installation of the first two Kipper flow bases and trees were completed.


The Tuna Field, currently producing oil, lies between the Kipper and Turrum fields. Tuna is a part of the Gippsland Basin Joint Venture (GBJV), in which Esso Australia Resources – as operator – and BHP Billiton each have an equal share. The partners are now developing the field to produce gas and associated liquid by converting the existing West Tuna facilities and installing the new pipelines to deliver production into the existing gas system.


The Turrum Field holds approximately 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas and 110 MMbbl of oil and gas liquids. Turrum is also part of the GBSV. Upon completion, it will be able to produce 11,000 bbl/d of condensate and 200 MMcf/d of gas.

To produce oil and gas from the field, a new platform will be installed above the field. Marlin B, the first new platform to be installed in Bass Strait in over a decade, is being constructed and linked via a bridge to Marlin A.

Offshore installation

2011 was a busy year for the project as the installation of major pieces of offshore equipment began. In previous years there was a huge amount of engineering, planning and preparation, along with construction of new facilities and installation of pipelines.

Installation of three new pipelines was completed in early 2011: the West Tuna platform to Kipper looped pipeline, which is 18.1 km long and 350 mm in diameter; a 450 mm diameter, 16 km pipeline, which connects West Tuna to the new Marlin B platform; and a 450 mm,
18 km pipeline, which will connect Marlin B to the Snapper platform, for Kipper gas production and development of the Tuna gas cap. These subsea pipelines are in close proximity to existing pipelines.

In April and May 2011 there were around 600 people working offshore as the Kipper manifold and four coolers were installed on location in Bass Strait and the huge Marlin B jacket, constructed by McDermott Industries, was launched from its transportation barge and lifted into place 60 m from the Marlin A platform by the offshore construction derrick barge, the DB30. Installation of the Marlin B jacket, the base of one of the biggest steel platforms in Bass Strait, was completed with the installation of eight piles, which have secured it to the seafloor.

Installation of the Snapper J-tube and riser was completed in August 2011 by the MV Emerald Sea with assistance from other attendant vessels. The J-tube and riser will enable the connection of the new pipeline and control umbilical to the Snapper platform.

Following this, the DB30 lifted a small satellite platform called a riser access tower into place adjacent to the West Tuna platform. The riser access tower will connect the new Kipper pipelines and umbilicals to the West Tuna platform and is located approximately 60 m from West Tuna. Piling to secure the tower to the sea floor was completed in November 2011 and installation of the topsides module and bridge linking the tower to the West Tuna platform wrapped up in December 2011.

In October/November 2011, key infrastructure was transported by sea from Batam Island where it had been fabricated, prior to being installed in Bass Strait in late-2011/early 2012. This included the Marlin B platform topsides modules, flare boom, and the bridge connecting the Marlin A and Marlin B platforms.

The next 12 months

The KTT project is nearing completion of the installation phase of its offshore installation.

Since the start of 2012, the umbilicals (that will control the Kipper manifold and coolers) have been laid and buried. Work to install the Marlin B module support frame and bridge connecting the two Marlin platforms has also been completed. At time of writing two of the four topsides modules, housing the platform’s major processing equipment had been lifted into place on top of the Marlin B jacket. The remaining two topside modules were expected to be installed by early February.

Installation and tie-in activities for the new infrastructure will continue throughout 2012. This includes the Kipper subsea equipment, pipelines, West Tuna Riser Access Tower and Marlin B platform.

In addition, early project work is underway on a new gas conditioning plant at Longford for processing gas associated with the KTT project. It is anticipated that this plant will be operational by 2016.

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