This required letting the pipeline leak for one more day while Operations Manager Darren Flaus Engineering Manager, Henry Dupal, and their team mobilised the right materials, contractors and resources to make a permanent repair.
Once the emergency had been declared, the whole business moved into ‘emergency management’ mode. There were approximately 25 people directly involved in the response effort, including management personnel, control room operators, engineers, field technicians, contract welders and inspectors.
At approximately 4:00am on 24 February, the first crew of pipeline technicians from APA’s Southern Operations team headed out to the site from the main base in Alice Springs in a fleet of four wheel drive utes, trucks and trailers to commence blowdown and excavation with an excavator and experienced operator.
A second crew departed Alice Springs later that morning comprising engineers, specially-qualified welders and a welding inspector.
The first step was to depressurise the pipeline due to the fact that equipment and welders cannot be brought in until the danger of gas has been removed. Four pipeline technicians conducted blowdowns to empty the pipe of gas at Tylers Pass and Palm Valley (approximately 60 km apart), as the repair location was between these two sites.
The crew was then able to excavate the leak site and inspect the pipeline, a process which took approximately four hours to complete due to the fact that the section of the pipeline where the leak was occurring was located in a remote area of the Northern Territory, and was buried approximately
2 m beneath loose red sand. A scorch mark on the yellow jacket plastic coating at the top of the pipe confirmed APA’s suspicion that a lightning strike had caused the gas leak. Underneath the coating, the crew located the 1 mm diameter hole that was causing the gas leak.