The federal government has recently mooted a series of reforms in the gas sector, including the possibility of a national gas reservation scheme. It’s worth looking at some of the steps the industry is taking to deliver a stable and reliable gas supply.
Australia doesn’t use gas at a steady rate. Our usage rises and falls at different times of the day, and different times of the year – just like electricity. That’s why sites like the Newcastle Gas Storage Facility (NGSF) are important – to deliver a stable, and reliable source of gas on hand for residential, commercial, and industrial customers.
Natural gas is an essential Australian energy source, helping to power everything from residential hot water services, to hospitals and schools, to local industries.
The NGSF, located 20km from Newcastle in Tomago and Hexham, is one of Australia’s largest gas storage facilities. It is located strategically close to the Wilton-Newcastle trunk line and large industrial gas users, and the site is appropriately buffered from residential areas.
This shot, taken during the construction of the storage tank roof before it was raised, shows the scope of NGSF.
Storing gas for peak use
The $310m facility takes pipeline natural gas and cools it to an extremely cold -162°C, converting it to liquified natural gas (LNG). The insulated, non-pressurised storage tank can hold 30,000 tonnes (or 63,000m3) of LNG, equivalent to 1.5 petajoules of energy. At any one time, the NGSF’s tank can hold enough gas to supply almost 45,000 NSW homes for an entire year.
Of course, the NGSF isn’t designed to provide sustained support like this – rather, it is used to ensure reliable gas supply to homes in the regional area.
This peak demand doubles in NSW and quadruples in Victoria on a cold day. The NGSF is also a backup for plant breakdowns from producers such as Longford in Victoria.
This peaking principle is similar to how quick-start gas-fired power stations or grid-scale batteries can switch on at a moment’s notice (or, in the case of batteries, a millisecond) to support fluctuations and peak demand in the electricity grid. The NGSF does the same thing – but for the NSW gas supply.
NGSF Operations Manager Trevor Anderson (right) and members of the NGSF team
|NGSF at a glance|
Construction of the facility began in 2012, and the NGSF was officially opened in 2015. Raising the 450-tonne steel dome roof 40m to the top of the tank was the most technologically impressive feat in the construction process: it was accomplished using nothing but air.
The roof was assembled close to the ground inside the tank, and once construction was completed, the entrance to the tank was sealed and four industrial fans began to pump air in, under the roof. The gradual increase in air pressure enabled the roof to rise to the top of the tank.
A team of engineers continually monitored the progress of the roof as it rose to ensure it ascended evenly and maintained its alignment throughout the process. Once the roof reached the top of the tank, it was welded into position.
Watch a timelapse of the construction of the NGSF’s storage tank here: