Natural gas is used widely every day in homes, businesses and institutions across Australia for heating, air-conditioning, hot water and cooking. It is also used extensively for generating electricity and in manufacturing processes. Almost five million homes and businesses are connected to gas and many others that benefit from its use.
Large-diameter, high-pressure transmission pipelines transport natural gas over long distances to link the sources of supply and demand. Networks of lower pressure distribution mains deliver gas at various pressures from points along transmission pipelines to industrial, commercial and domestic customers.
Gas pipelines run beneath the ground and, apart from pipeline markers, are unnoticed as we go about our daily lives. The high-pressure transmission pipelines that feed the distribution network span thousands of kilometres around the country and within our cities and towns. Transmission pipelines are typically constructed within well-defined easements or corridors that can be as wide as 30 metres. A pipeline easement or corridor is a right-of-way allowing access for necessary inspections or maintenance. In cities and towns, easements are typically narrower in order to maximise the amount of land available for urban use. Alternatively, pipelines may be placed in road reserves for similar reasons.
A notification zone is the land in the vicinity of a pipeline where changes in land use may be of interest to a pipeline operator. Pipelines are designed to take into account the land use around them. Over time, land uses change and pipeline operators must be aware of matters such as increased construction activity associated with new land use, increased population density and associated activity and the potential for sensitive land uses such as industrial facilities or community facilities to be built in the vicinity of a pipeline
If you don’t intend to change the use of your land, through rezoning or subdivision, it is highly likely that you will be unaffected by living in a notification zone. Renovations, extensions, external buildings, even building a second dwelling on a block of land will not change land use in a way that requires notification. However, developing new suburbs on previously rural land, or building structures that concentrate numbers of people, such as schools, hospitals, aged care, child care and community centres) or certain industrial facilities within the notification zone of a pipeline have the potential to change the land use on which the pipeline design was based. Pipeline operators are very interested in such activities. It is critical that there is early communication about plans for these activities between planners, developers and pipeline operators. Early communication can lead to solutions that are acceptable to all parties.
Great care is taken in Australia to safeguard transmission pipelines from interference that could pose a safety risk. Thanks to our industry’s world-leading construction practices and pipeline operator surveillance and maintenance regimes, Australia has not experienced a fatality associated with the operation of a transmission pipeline. The highly successful free Dial Before You Dig service has also contributed to Australia’s impeccable safety record. In addition, the pipeline industry works closely with stakeholders such as regulators and planners to ensure any new developments and changes in land use consider the existing location of transmission and high-pressure distribution pipelines.
Pipeline operators work constantly to minimise the potential risks to their pipelines. Measures include:
Even if you know you do not live on a pipeline easement or in the vicinity of a gas transmission pipeline, if you use natural gas in your home, there is a buried pipeline somewhere on your property. Before you do any major digging on your property, always remember to Dial Before You Dig on 1100 or refer to the website http://1100.com.au/ to lodge an inquiry or download the app. It’s important to remember that the buried services, which can include water supply and disposal, electricity, communications and gas services, on your property can be damaged even from minor digging such as a shovel strike. APGA recommends all property owners develop an understanding of the location of buried services on their property. Support to locate these services varies across jurisdictions and service providers. In the first instance, your supplier should be able to provide guidance.
For more information call the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA) on 02 6273 0577.