World class water solutions
SunWater is a bulk water infrastructure developer and manager, and plays a key role in Australia’s water industry. Altogether, the company owns and manages around $7 billion in water infrastructure assets, and supplies approximately 40 per cent of all water used commercially in Queensland. Their extensive network of water supply infrastructure supports mining, power generation, industry, urban development and more.
The company has operated in Queensland for more than 80 years, and has built a legacy of delivering “world-class bulk water infrastructure solutions,” according to Tim Donaghy, General Manager of the Industrial Pipelines group of the company.
SunWater’s recent Kenya to Chinchilla Weir Pipeline is an excellent example of such a world-class solution.
The project was completed on behalf of QGC (Queensland Gas Company), one of the leading natural gas explorers and producers in Australia. QGC’s Kenya Water Treatment Plant is located near Chinchilla in southern Queensland. The coal seam gas (CSG) extraction process in the region generates significant volumes of ground water per day. Historically, companies like QGC would have large “evaporation ponds,” where they would store that untreated water and allow it to evaporate. With a view to ensuring Beneficial Use of the resource, the Queensland Government required companies like QGC to treat and subsequently utilise the ground water resource being extracted and that evaporation ponds ultimately were not the preferred option.
“That meant they needed to look for another solution,” recalls Gillian Haussmann, Manager, Commercial at SunWater. “We’re solution providers, so we were able to assist with that – hence the birth of this particular project.”
QGC ultimately contracted SunWater to build, own and operate a 20 kilometre buried pipeline to transport up to 85 megalitres (ML) per day of water from the Kenya plant to Chinchilla Weir – which supplies the town of Chinchilla, in the Darling Downs region of Queensland.
The Kenya to Chinchilla Weir Pipeline mainly provides water for beneficial use by the agricultural community, but it is also made available to supplement the Chinchilla town water supply, through the Chinchilla Weir Water Supply Scheme. The pipeline is the first of its kind in Queensland, and represents “genuine community benefits,” Tim says.
Gillian estimates that SunWater spent roughly a year working up the concept for the project, and finalising commercial arrangements. They then spent another year coming up with the design and gaining the necessary approvals. From there, the company spent roughly six to eight months building the pipeline.
According to Gillian, the approval stage was the most challenging. Environmental approvals required for the project were not insignificant as no-one before had utilised treated coal seam gas water on such a large scale. SunWater was required to demonstrate to regulatory bodies that the addition of treated coal seam gas water to Chinchilla weir on the Condamine River would not harm the river’s natural ecology.
SunWater successfully earned those approvals and, together with QGC, undertakes a significant amount of water quality and ecological monitoring in compliance with conditions set by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the Queensland Water Supply Regulator.
Earning approval also meant ensuring that “essentially every drop” of the pipeline’s water was used as part of the Chinchilla Beneficial Use Scheme. That meant making it available for beneficial use by agricultural customers along the pipeline, with the balance being made available to customers along the Condamine River. The water had to be taken out of the river, however, before it left SunWater’s scheme – which is about 40 kilometres downstream from the Chinchilla Weir.
“We undertake water accounting to make sure every drop is used,” Gillian explains. “Therefore the farmers have to be able to take it all year, rain or shine. So they need to have storage capabilities for the times when they don’t need to irrigate.”
“Local farmers have entered into agreements with SunWater in which they receive water at a discounted rate. That was to encourage them to take it. It was a unique situation, but it worked out for everybody.”
Every year, the Australian Institute of Project Management holds award nights that recognise industry leading businesses and government organisations across Australia. These events are called the Project Management Achievement Awards (PMAA), and their mission is to shine a spotlight on outstanding achievements in the realms of program and project management. They do that in a wide range of categories, and at both the state and national levels.
At the 2013 PMAA Awards for Queensland, SunWater was awarded one of the event’s top accolades, in the category for Regional Projects. They won for their work on the Chinchilla Beneficial Use Scheme.
“Industry recognition is so important,” Gillian says. “It recognises the hard work of our team. It shows people that we have the structures and the discipline in place to complete a project like this successfully, on time and on budget.”
Both Gillian and Tim credit the awards success to the strong relationships they were able to form at every level – including with their contractors. For this project, for example, they engaged Moody Civil & Pipe to do the main construction work. They were involved at a very early stage of the project, and worked closely with SunWater through some significant challenges..
“We developed a great relationship with them,” Gillian says. “They did what they promised, provided solutions to construction challengers, and it ended up being a very successful project.”
Gillian also credits the project’s success to the relationships they formed with the community, including the local farmers and the regional council. She says they maintained really strong ties with all parties throughout the entire process, and they all stuck together during the successes and challengers which come along with delivering such a unique project.
“They’ve been very supportive all along,” she explains. “They saw that this was a good option for water security in the long term, and they worked with us from the very beginning, from the time it first emerged as an idea.”
“We have some dedicated people who are available to service those customers,” Tim adds. “They constantly kept them abreast of any issues over the course of the project. They always let them know what was going on, and were around to respond to any questions or concerns.”
Gillian and Tim also credit the awards success to the overall uniqueness of the pipeline.
“Something like this has never been done before,” Gillian says. “We solved a problem for the industry that no one has ever been able to solve.”
Tim adds that SunWater was able to come up with an innovative solution due to their experience. The company has been in the water industry for a long time, and they “understand it inside and out.” They know how to narrow in on problems and turn them into opportunities for their customers, like they did with the Kenya to Chinchilla Weir Pipeline. He says they will continue to provide those kinds of solutions well into the future.
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