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How to save time and money while enhancing environmental outcome

Advances in technology and lessons learnt from years of pipeline construction can deliver savings in cost and time for pipeline projects while achieving excellent environmental outcomes and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Hand-held water quality monitors have undergone technological advances in recent years that allow field testing that can save time and money compared to laboratory testing of water samples.

Topsoil depth sampling can speed rehabilitation and lower costs in applying industry knowledge gathered over years of long-distance pipeline construction in Australia.

Through careful planning and scheduling during construction, onsite environmental teams can undertake both water monitoring and topsoil depth sampling programs, allowing the benefits of these strategies to be realised without any additional staffing requirements.

APLNG-Coal-seam-gas-500x332Water monitoring programs involve sampling key water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, turbidity and salinity levels. These, and other water quality parameters, are important influences on the health of aquatic plants and animals.

They should be assessed before construction commences to establish their existing baseline levels and measured during and after construction to evaluate whether there has been any impact and whether any remedial action is required.

Today, it is easier than ever to have onsite environmental teams take and evaluate samples using portable water monitoring equipment. This equipment is available at a low cost and is very accurate.

The benefits of undertaking water quality monitoring using onsite staff and portable equipment include:

  • Saves money and time by removing the need to take and preserve water samples, transporting them long distances to a laboratory to be analysed and waiting for results;
  • Having reliable data available immediately for key parameters;
  • Multiple sites can be monitored inexpensively without foregoing coverage and having to extrapolate results; and,
  • Trends or incidents can be responded to quickly and either dispelled through reliable evidence or through the swift deployment of mitigation measures.

Quick reaction to emerging trends or incidents can be substantially cheaper than responding to an emergency or paying an environmental fine and incurring the reputation damage that accompanies it. The results generated from sampling can assist in reporting to regulators, demonstrating proactive responses and commitment to resolving environmental concerns.

Similarly, undertaking topsoil depth testing prior to clear and grade can save substantial time and effort in the rehabilitation phase following construction works. This includes avoiding the need to apply expensive soil additives such as fertilisers and gypsum to stimulate regrowth.

Sampling every 100–500 m along the pipeline alignment will establish the topsoil depth profile i.e. at what depth the topsoil layer stops and the subsoil begins. The depth to which each section of the alignment is graded is adjusted accordingly; topsoil is stockpiled on one side of the right-of-way (ROW) and subsoil stockpiled on the other.

2006_Site-Industriel0Maintaining separate topsoil and subsoil stockpiles is crucial as it preserves the seed bank of the topsoil by avoiding compaction. Topsoil should be stored for the minimum practical time (no more than 12 months) and in stockpile heights of 1–1.5 m (according to Witheridge’s Erosion and Sediment Control – A Field Guide for Construction Site Managers).

Using topsoil maintained this way facilitates the rapid re-establishment of vegetation cover. It also enables the rapid sign-off of this element on environmental punch lists. Successful re-establishment can help reduce the need for skeleton crews after practical completion or the need to redeploy teams to the field.

Additionally, many other invaluable environmental management techniques are outlined in the APIA Code of Environmental Practice. The Code has been developed for the pipeline industry by the pipeline industry. CNC Project Management prepared the third revision of the Code which was launched in 2013.

If properly applied, techniques from the Code can help ensure compliance with environmental regulations and in many instances compliance with contract specifications – a win for pipeline owners, contractors and the environment.

CNC Project Management is a consultancy working in the environment, community relations, land access, indigenous relations, planning and permitting fields.

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Sourced from The Australian Pipeliner