Natural gas fuelling our state
50 years of the Moomba to Adelaide pipeline.
Officially opened on 28 November 1969, the pipeline delivers natural gas from the Cooper Basin in the northeast of the state to domestic, commercial and industrial users through three Adelaide distribution connection points at Elizabeth, Gepps Cross and Taperoo. It was the only gas transmission pipeline into Adelaide until 2004 when the SEA GAS pipeline opened bringing gas from Port Campbell and Iona in Victoria.
Natural gas was discovered in the Cooper Basin in Gidgealpa 1 in December 1963. Follow-up exploration drilling tested large seismically mapped structures in the region and the giant Moomba gas field was discovered in 1966 and Daralingie gas field in 1967.
The identification of economic quantities of natural gas attracted strong interest from the Government of South Australia and large gas customers in Adelaide. From 1865 till 1965 gas supplied to Adelaide customers was manufactured by the South Australian Gas Company from coal imported from New South Wales at a plant at Brompton and from carburetted water gas plants at Osborne and Brompton that were constructed in 1947 to reduce reliance on New South Wales coal and increase the security of gas supply. Gas manufacture at Osborne ceased in 1979.
Key early customers for Cooper Basin gas included the South Australian Gas Company, the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA), Adelaide Cement and South Australian Portland Cement. ETSA commenced construction of the Torrens Island Power Station in 1963. It was originally to be a coal-fired plant, oil was also considered as a fuel, but in 1965 the design was converted to natural gas – this was decisive in making supply of Cooper Basin natural gas economically feasible (O’Neil 1995). The Torrens Island A Station was completed in 1967 and gas sales agreements were signed in April 1967. The Torrens Island B Station was completed in 1976.
The current operator, AGL Energy, expects its new 210 MW Barker Inlet Power Station, a fast-start natural gas generator that sits alongside the Torrens Power Station, to be in full operation in late 2019. Two of the four gas generators at Torrens A will be progressively shut down, but the more modern four-turbine 800 MW Torrens Island B plant will continue to run as usual.
In April 1967 the South Australian government passed the Natural Gas Pipelines Authority Act and created the Natural Gas Pipeline Authority (based on the Alberta Gas Pipelines Authority, Canada) to construct and operate the proposed Moomba to Adelaide Pipeline. The authority later became the Pipelines Authority of South Australia (PASA). The pipeline was funded through federal and state government contributions and private sector capital (O’Neil 1995). Pipe laying commenced on 24 October 1968 when premier Steele Hall turned the first sod near the Para River, north of Adelaide.
This massive project also required construction of a gas processing plant at Moomba where condensate, ethane, carbon dioxide and water are removed from the natural gas to meet pipeline requirements.
The Moomba to Adelaide gas pipeline is 781 km long, the maximum allowable operating pressure for the mainline is 7,320 kilopascals and its fully compressed capacity (with all seven compressor stations online) is approximately 110 petajoules (104 billion cubic feet) per year. In its current configuration (four compressor stations online) the annual capacity of the pipeline is around 91 petajoules. This can be restored to maximum capacity if market conditions dictate.
The pipeline is currently owned and operated by Epic Energy SA Ltd. Epic originated from the split of ownership of Tenneco Gas in 1996 following the sale of PASA to Tenneco Gas Australia in 1995.
Lateral extensions to the main line total a further 607 km and service markets in regional South Australia. The Riverland pipeline system, owned by Envestra (SA) Ltd and operated by APT O&M Services Pty Ltd, extends from the Moomba to Adelaide pipeline and services Murray Bridge, Berri and Mildura.
O’Neil B 1995. Above and below – the South Australian Department of Mines and Energy 1944–1994, Special Publication 010. South Australian Department of Mines and Energy, Adelaide.