CSG, Markets, Technology

Polyethylene pipe for CSG pipelines

If you haven’t heard of coal seam gas (CSG), you must have been away from our shores for some time. In a recent interview on the ABC News program Inside Business, Adam Carr – Senior Economist with analyst ICAP – suggested the capital expenditure (CAPEX) in the CSG and LNG resource sector played a significant role in insulating Australia from the global financial crisis. Moreover, he suggested that CSG is “bullet proofing”? the economy going forward. Bold claims indeed but in any case, CSG will be a very significant industry for the next generation of Australians.

CSG has been exploited in Australia for around ten years. While much of the media focus has been on the LNG plants themselves, it is literally back at the coal face that polyethylene (PE) pipe has found another successful application.

Over that ten-year period, in excess of 1,000 km of PE pipeline has been installed for CSG and it is performing extremely well. This performance sees PE as the material of choice for the “˜gathering’ pipeline network. Actually there are two pipe networks – one carrying the ground water away from the coal seam and the other gathering the gas that is liberated when the water is pumped off.

CSG is developing into a significant specific application for PE – with its own set of operating conditions and risk profiles. This expansion has created a need to specifically address CSG as a separate application driving the development of a specific Code of Practice for PE in this industry. The Australian Pipeline Industry Association (APIA) and Plastics Industry Pipe Association (PIPA) have come together to write this code.

Global uses for PE

PE is the material of choice for gas distribution pipelines in cities throughout Europe and Australia. It is also used extensively in the water, wastewater and irrigation industries on a global scale. Australia’s mining industry has embraced PE for many applications, often in arduous and challenging environments.

The Australian PE industry is very much part of the global PE industry. The Australian Standards for PE pipe are amongst the most rigorous in the world and, in addition to the world class raw material and pipe manufacturing that takes place here, we are integrated into the global supply chain for both raw materials and fittings.

The new Code of Practice being developed by APIA and PIPA will draw on the established standards that, in some cases, have development histories going back to the 50s and 60s. Most importantly, these standards have kept pace with the massive leap in material performance that has been a feature of PE in the recent past. Australia is also an active contributor to the suite of international ISO standards for these products.

In short, CSG is here to stay as a long-term and major application for PE pipe. PE is a mature pipe material with an established history and a suite of rigorous standards. The Code of Practice will ensure appropriate design and installation of these systems during the rapid expansion that will take place in the coming years.

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