Tag Archives: Australia

Varanus Island gas explosion report slams Apache

US oil-and-gas giant Apache Energy has failed to block a scathing review of the Varanus Island gas explosion, which cut 30 per cent of Western Australia’s supply and cost the economy an estimated $3 billion.

Apache claimed the explosion at its plant off WA’s North-West coast in June 2008 was “unforseen and unforeseeable”.

But a long-awaited WA Government-commissioned report into the disaster, tabled in Parliament, contradicts those claims.

It found the company should have been alerted to the risks by evidence of corrosion of a 30cm pipe that later ruptured and exploded, causing $60 million damage to the plant and cutting industrial gas supplies to the state.

“We believe the risk of this occurring was not only foreseeable but to some extent foreseen,” the report stated.

The report also found Apache did not properly assess risks to the pipe network and did not have enough safety measures in place.

Apache has tried to suppress the report since it was completed in June 2009.

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore told the Legislative Council today the report was scathing of Apache’s gas pipeline operations.

“I can inform the House that the report is highly critical of Apache, particularly regarding the company’s technical and operational failings as the operator,” he said.

“The report concluded Apache Northwest had the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the Varanus site in good condition and repair.”

The State Government tried to prosecute Apache over the disaster, but was forced to drop the criminal proceedings in March on a technicality.

It said it could not prove the gas giant failed to adequately maintain its “pipeline”, under the legal definition, as the corroded section of gas piping was described as “pipeworks”.

The tabling of the report in WA’s Upper House may now lead to civil action against the company.

SOURCE: http://www.perthnow.com.au/business/varanus-gas-explosion-report-slams-apache/story-e6frg2r3-1226365866625

Call for funds to fix Melbourne’s Loop problems

MELBOURNE’S City Loop has ”heavy” concrete corrosion, water ”leaching all over the place” and emergency systems that should be improved, inspections by Victoria’s independent transport safety watchdog have revealed.

Alan Osborne, the man in charge of safety on Victoria’s rail system, has called on the Baillieu government to commit significant funds to fix the problems of the city’s underground tunnels.

Mr Osborne, the director of transport safety at Transport Safety Victoria, ordered the inspections after The Age revealed in September that the loop’s serious structural problems had been ignored by successive state governments.

Mr Osborne told The Age that there was no immediate risk to passenger safety, but it was important the issues were dealt with to avoid deterioration and possible derailments. ”There’s a lot of inspections … but there comes a point where you need to bite the bullet and do some major pieces of work,” he said.

The position and width of the walkway means that, in the event of a train fire in the loop, passengers in wheelchairs would have to wait, Mr Osborne concluded. He said inspections by Transport Safety Victoria had confirmed:

  • The fasteners holding the rails to the tunnel floor were ”quite heavily corroded” in some places. The extra water ”leaching all over the place” and problems with the concrete had created ”a more corrosive environment than was expected”.
  • Drawings of the fire-protected areas of underground stations have been lost.
  • A number of systems at the underground stations, such as testing of emergency warnings, could be improved.

Under freedom of information laws The Age requested further reports on the state of the loop from its state-owned insurer, the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority. But the authority declined the request, saying the release of information about safety procedures, access points and general emergency responses was a security risk.

Mr Osborne said he would like to see a plan put forward for the long-term renewal of the tunnel, which carries more than 150,000 Melburnian commuters each week day. This would include updating the loop’s control systems, the ventilation system, improving waterproofing and drainage and replacing the concrete rail sleepers.

This is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars, but some of the work is already afoot. A $2.5 million project is attempting to seal water leaks, 6000 sleepers will be repaired by March 2013, and the Department of Transport is con- ducting further tests on the ventilation system after a CSIRO report found smoke extraction fans were performing to a capacity of only 25 per cent.

Metro spokeswoman Geraldine Mitchell said two independent engineering assessments on the loop had concluded safety standards had been met. ”It is important to note that extensive tests carried out by Metro have not found any serious safety issues.”

The company conducts daily inspections, weekly walk-throughs by a shift gang, monthly bolt inspections and six-monthly rail flaw inspections, Ms Mitchell said.

The department said the structural integrity of the loop remained ”fit for purpose”.

Mr Mulder said he continued to receive advice about the loop issues from the department, but any major works to the emergency walkway were impractical. ”Because of the presence of utilities [tunnel services] and the tunnel’s shape, altering the walkways to be elevated would narrow their width and reduce passenger headroom,” he said.


SOURCE: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/call-for-funds-to-fix-loops-problems-20111219-1p2kd.html#ixzz1h5CVpJfN

$20m (AUD) to fix Canberra’s Scrivener Dam

Up to $20 million will be spent repairing Canberra’s Scrivener Dam after a safety audit uncovered corrosion problems.

The annual safety audit of the dam three weeks ago found corroded bolts in the flap gates of the dam wall which are opened during flooding to regulate the level of Lake Burley Griffin.

It recommended 120 anchor bolts be replaced within one to two years.

“The engineering work involves replacing every bolt, on every hinge, on every gate,” said National Capital Authority (NCA) chief executive Gary Rake.

“Each of the five flap gates will, in turn, be removed and replaced by a temporary floating gate while the bolts are changed.”

Most of the bolts are encased in steel structure or concrete and are difficult to access.

The work will also include redesigning the anchor bolt system to reduce corrosion and improve accessibility.

It is expected to cost between $15 million and $20 million (AUD), and will take up to 18 months to complete.

Mr Rake says the lake level is also being lowered to the same level reached in February 2003 during drought conditions.

“Lake Burley Griffin was lowered 200 millimetres last Friday evening in anticipation of increased water inflows,” he said.

“We will lower the lake by another 300mm. Lowering the lake to this level will assist us in managing risks associated with both the day-to-day operation of the dam and the completion of these engineering works.

“We expect that the lake will remain at this lower level throughout the work.

“There may be occasions when the lake needs to be lowered even further. Lake users will be given advance notice of expected changes in the lake level whenever possible.”

Mr Rake says the dam remains safe and fully functional.

“Undertaking these works will not interfere with the regular operation of the dam. We have been advised by independent engineers that Scrivener Dam remains safe and fully functional,” he said.

“All risks associated with these works and the day-to-day operation of the dam are being appropriately managed.”

SOURCE: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-01/scrivener-dam-repair-bill/3706644 

$100m corrosion & cathodic protection project for Sydney’s tallest office building

WHEN it was finished in 1978, the 67-storey MLC Centre in Martin Place was not only Australia’s tallest office building, but also the biggest reinforced concrete structure in the world.

Thirty-three years later, the Harry Seidler-designed structure is showing its age. Its concrete facade is breaking up and the owners have agreed to spend $100 million repairing it in an operation that will go 24 hours a day, seven days a week for much of the next four years.

Documents filed by the owners with the Central Sydney Planning Committee show what a massive repair job it will be to stabilize the remaining solid parts of the modernist facade and repair those that are not.

It will take 10 months just to finish preliminary works.

Then workers on 12-hour shifts will blast away damaged concrete with dry ice and grit, and use small jackhammers and angle grinders to prepare the surfaces for filling and patching.

They will also drill thousands of 100 millimeter-deep holes into which anodes will be inserted, which should help preserve the facade panels for the next 40 years.

This main stage of the process will last more than two years. To minimize disruption to tenants, the owners have decided the noisiest work will begin at 7pm and go all night, a decision that has angered neighboring residents who have objected to the plans.

The owners, GPT Group and QIC Real Estate, will import insulated French working platforms designed to fit the shape of the building, which they say will reduce the noise of the jackhammers and other equipment.

The owners blame the deteriorating facade on ”the manner in which pre-cast panels were originally manufactured”.

SOURCE: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/four-years-and-100m-for-city-tower-repair-job-20111106-1n225.html#ixzz1d2Jdl3D7

WWII spitfire MJ789 plane to be preserved from corrosion

For 66 years, the remains of a brave Spitfire pilot and his plane lay on a river bed off Normandy in France.

The pilot, identified as Flight Lieutenant Henry `Lacy’ Smith, 27, from Sydney, was buried with full military honors in France in April.

Now a team of experts in Melbourne are doing their best to preserve what is left of his plane.

The Spitfire MJ789 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on June 11, 1944 in the battle that followed D-Day.

It crashed into the River Orne, near Caen, in northern France during the Battle of Normandy, one of the largest battles of WWII.

Smith and his aircraft were deemed missing in action until they were found last November in the Orne Estuary by local museum curators.

The aircraft remains were shipped to Australia in September where experts at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook in Melbourne are removing the dirt, slime and foreign matter.

Despite its history, the plane – which has two bullet holes in its right wing from where it was pounded with anti-aircraft fire – is in good condition.

“It looks fairly good for something that’s been laid in the salt water since 1944,” museum director David Gardner said.

“It’ll be conserved in its current form and the way we put it on display will tell the story of the RAAF’s contribution to the war effort in Europe.

“It will also add to the fact that we are actively looking for those that are declared missing during the conflict.”

The conservation effort will involve cleaning the aircraft, then hoisting it into a tank of fresh water for between six and eight months to desalinate it before it is preserved for the long term.

“We’ve got to get rid of the salt so we can stop the corrosion and corrosion’s the biggest killer,” Mr Gardner said.

Smith was from No 453 Squadron, the first Australian squadron to go into action on D-Day – June 6, 1944 – providing tactical support for the troops landing on the Normandy beach head.

He was buried with full military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Ranville, Normandy, in April.

Gary Walsh, a registrar at the museum who is working on the preservation, said he felt fortunate to work on the project.

“It’s a very poignant moment for me,” he said.

“There were some brave people involved with this and unfortunately this person lost his life defending his country.

“It’s a sacred thing from our perspective too.”

Staff hope to have the plane on display in the next six to eight months.

SOURCE: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8362462/wwii-plane-to-be-preserved

Corrosion problems identified in Melbourne’s City Loop

Serious structural problems in Melbourne’s City Loop – including cracking tunnel walls, concrete corrosion  – have been ignored by successive state governments and train operators despite repeated warnings.

A 2001 report, also obtained by The Age, revealed the loop was suffering from long-term structural corrosion caused by possible contamination of the original concrete mix.

Damage to concrete plinths was leading to ”heavy corrosion” of steel reinforcements, potentially undermining the tracks. At worst, a derailment ”must be considered possible”, said the report, commissioned by infrastructure contractor Thiess Infraco.

Transport Safety Victoria has also expressed concern about the 30-year-old loop, after receiving a letter of complaint from the train drivers’ union. The letter, addressed to Metro and copied to the Coroner, said drivers had ”grave concerns” about the operator’s failure to address evacuation procedures.

The drivers say they are not trained for emergencies in the loop. Their occupational health and safety representatives yesterday issued Metro with a formal warning that will trigger a WorkSafe investigation.

The Age investigation into City Loop safety has revealed:

  • Drawings of fire-protected areas of underground stations have been lost.
  • A recent CSIRO study of the smoke extraction fans found some were performing to a capacity of only 25 per cent.
  • Train drivers have noticed record levels of water seeping through the walls, along the tracks and on the emergency walkways. Metro says, however, that the water is not a safety risk.
  • Train drivers have been asking Metro for six months for an after-hours train to inspect the tunnels. Metro has refused.

Metro, which took over the rail system from Connex in 2009, could not confirm yesterday whether these problems had been tackled.

But it said structural problems with the concrete would be addressed in a rehabilitation program starting next April.

Metro spokeswoman Geraldine Mitchell said 6125 sleepers would also be replaced by November as part of general maintenance.

She said two independent reports – one commissioned by government and one by Metro – had concluded that safety standards had been met.

In a statement to The Age, the Department of Transport said the loop was performing ”optimally” and ”a range of maintenance, repair and mitigation” measures had been conducted since the 2001 report.

The loop had been tested – including state-of-the-art smoke testing – and emergency exercises completed. ”The department believes the potential for a train derailment in the rail loop is extremely low,” it said.

”The emergency walkways located in the loop are subject to ongoing maintenance and repair.” Representatives from the government’s insurance authority had recently inspected the walkways and found them in an ”adequate condition”.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder did not answer when asked by The Age whether he knew about the reports. But he said he expected the department and Metro to hold safety as paramount. ”As minister, my priority is for the safety and security of passengers,” he said.

SOURCE: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/city-loop-safety-fears-20110921-1klbd.html#ixzz1YjH0c7qH