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Building for a better future

In July 2021, the historic announcement was made that Brisbane would host the 2032 Olympics after a vote by International Olympic Committee. The announcement triggered a series of development and infrastructure projects to lay the groundwork for the world stage. 

Infrastructure projects across the state are still on the rise, driven by a strong pipeline of engineering and heavy civil construction work, underpinned by vast investment from the Queensland Government. These big builds are intended to bolster confidence, generate jobs, and guarantee economic growth for the state. 

In other firsts, Queensland has identified priority industries in the resources and energy sectors, including the production of hydrogen and biofuels, as well as the infrastructure to support it. Queensland will be home to Australia’s first renewable hydrogen production facility in Gladstone, with backing from Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI). 

This widespread uptake of hydrogen in Australia will require storage, and underground hydrogen storage via tunnelling is the preferred option for reasons of both cost and safety. While the industry is still embryonic, Queensland has made some significant steps to secure its future as a hydrogen superpower, having signed agreements with FFI to connect sites near Gladstone to Powerlink’s transmission network to allow renewable electricity to power proposed hydrogen projects.

ENEOS – Japan’s largest oil company – is set to significantly increase its production of green hydrogen in Queensland with a target of 20 kg/d. The following trenchless feats have been accomplished in transport, water, and energy over the last year. 

Cross River Rail 

The Cross River Rail project is a new 10.2 km rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 km of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and CBD. It is the most ambitious infrastructure project Queensland has seen in decades. 

As South East Queensland’s population is rapidly rising, current rail infrastructure is already nearing its capacity, causing bottlenecks and congestion on trainlines. SEQ’s network is constrained by a single river crossing and just four inner-city stations, and the Cross River Rail will resolve the issue by delivering a second river crossing and new systems across the region. 

In 2021, Cross River Rail embarked on its year of tunnelling that saw two massive tunnel boring machines (TBM) dig twin tunnels beneath the Brisbane River and CBD. TBMs ‘Merle’ and ‘Else’ are each 165 m long and weighing 1,300 t, named after trailblazing engineer Professor Else Shepherd and pioneering feminist Merle Thornton. 

Both began their journey from the Woolloongabba station box at the start of the year. From there, the pair made their 3.8 km journey underground, emerging from the project’s northern portal at Normanby before Christmas.

Meanwhile, two 115 t roadheaders excavated the almost 900 m of twin tunnels south from Woolloongabba to Boggo Road. For the first time ever, Roma Street and Woolloongabba are now connected underground. 

Build Our Regions Program 

The Building our Regions program has a long and successful history of supporting Queensland’s local governments to invest in essential regional infrastructure and creating flow-on economic development opportunities and jobs.

Round six of Building our Regions, announced by the Palaszczuk Government September last year, will offer $70 million over three years for local governments to improve their water supply and sewerage systems.

Until 17 May 2022, Councils can apply for up to $2 million in funding to support a range of eligible construction and works projects over three years. All local governments outside South East Queensland are eligible for funding through Building our Regions Round 6. 

Previous rounds of the program have seen more than $348 million approved towards 271 projects across 67 local government bodies. Projects have included 8 km sewerage pipeline replacement for Bundaberg Regional Council and a new 800 m water bore for Murweh Shire Council. 

$2.1 million West End main replacement 

Townsville City Council awarded a $2.1 million contract to replace around 1.3 km of water main along Stagpole Street in West End using trenchless methods.

The ageing pipeline is nearing the end of its working life, and local contractor CityPlus Construction was awarded the contract to commence replacements in November. 

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the local council is committed to upgrading civil water infrastructure across the city to ensure quality water service into the future. 

“In the 2021/22 Budget, Council dedicated $177 million towards maintaining, upgrading, and delivering water infrastructure and services to the community,” Cr Hill said.

“This investment allows us to prioritise the replacement of mains nearing the end of their operational life and ensure that the city has a secure water supply as our population grows.” 

The works are also expected to support the local economy by providing ongoing work to businesses. Townsville Water and Waste Committee chairperson Russ Cook said upgrading the pipes is a timely and necessary endeavour. 

He added that trenchless technology will be used to minimise disruption to the surrounding environment and local community. 

APLNG proposes HDD for gas wells

Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) said it will use horizontal directional drilling (HDD) in its proposed gas expansion to avoid disturbing the local environment above ground.

In April 2021, a joint venture (JV) between Origin Energy, ConocoPhillips and Sinopec, APLNG sought federal approval to drill thousands of new gas wells in Queensland as part of its Gas Supply Security Project. 

In its referral documents, APLNG said it would construct the wells using HDD and would also incorporate this technology for drilling of pipelines under threatened ecological communities, threatened flora, threatened fauna habitat and migratory fauna habitat.  

The JV cited forecast gas supply shortfalls from 2024 onwards as reason for undertaking the new drilling activity, as well as the potential for increased gas demands and increased reliance on Queensland supplies as production from Victoria continues to decline. 

The new gas would be used for both the domestic gas market and the export demands of APLNG, with current appraisal data showing production from 2P resources expected to be 453.6 PJ of gas. If the proposal is successful construction is likely to commence in 2024. 

Seqwater completes water pipe upgrade

In June last year, the utility undertook a $1.5 million upgrade of two important water pipelines in Queensland. The pipes supply water from the Mount Crosby Treatment Plant to Brisbane and Ipswich.

The works involved taking a 4 km section of the pipes at Barnes Hill offline temporarily to replace four valves which are reaching the end of their service life. Minister for Water Glenn Butcher said the work will support the ongoing supply of safe drinking water for the region and improve the reliability of the SEQ Water Grid.

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