RP2.4-02 Damage to distribution assets

Executive Summary

External damage to buried infrastructure remains the highest risk to the public posed by the gas system. Industry expends significant time and resources mitigating the potential for third party damage to buried distribution assets in accordance with AS 4645 and yet the strike rate remains high. Companies operating distribution assets in capital cities have quoted typical incident rates of 50-100 per month. While most of this infrastructure operates at quite low pressure, the potential for injury and property damage is significant. The only public fatalities in Australia as a result of gas infrastructure are due to failures in distribution systems.

Increasing trends to digitalisation mean that records are now available from distribution organisations of the details of damage to distribution assets that has been reported and repaired. Since 2019, the larger Australian distribution businesses have been collecting and collating damage reports electronically. This data provides the basis for better analysis of the causal factors influencing the risk to distribution assets.

This research project collated this data and used it for trend analysis to characterise damage to distribution assets in Australia with a view to developing new strategies for risk reduction. This research involved:

  • Identifying factors that characterise risk drawn from detailed analysis of distribution company records of damage incidents;
  • Further understanding risk factors based on interviews/focus groups with key groups (as drawn from analysis of incidents);
  • Benchmarking of gas distribution experience with damage to buried assets with experience from other sectors;
  • Identifying measures to reduce risk; and
  • Assessing the justification for identified measures including likely success in risk mitigation.
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Commencement / End Date December 2020 to November 2022
Outcomes / Impact

The ultimate expected benefit of this project is enabling a reduction in third party damage to distribution systems, thereby reducing the associated potential for injury and property damage.

Enhanced identification and analysis of key risk factors will provide an additional evidential basis for advice to companies and legislative policymakers regarding key measures for reducing the risk of third party damage, with a particular focus on procedural aspects rather than technology (e.g. DBYD, stakeholder liaison).

Partners RMIT University, Energy Safe Victoria, APA Group, ATCO, Ausnet Services, Dial Before You Dig, Multinet, Origin Energy
Research Contact

Dr Stephen McGrail

Research and Education Program Coordinator