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Australian steel facilitates construction of W2BH

Posted By The Australian Pipeliner  
14:00 PM

Construction of the 270 km W2BH, completed in December 2018, was facilitated by a proudly Australian partnership between Steel Mains and Bluescope Steel to supply almost 30,000 t of steel pipes. In addition to securing the long-term water supply for Broken Hill, the project is enabling growth and prosperity for local communities, as well as state and national economies in regional NSW.

In October 2017, WaterNSW appointed a consortium of John Holland, MPC Kinetic and TRILITY to design, build, operate and maintain the Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline (W2BH). CEO David Harris says WaterNSW is proud to have lead such a significant regional project, building on the organisation’s reputation for successful project delivery.

“The project guarantees water security for the Broken Hill community and the social and economic benefits that come with a secure, dependable water supply,” he says.

“With the total workforce reaching approximately 500 workers at peak times, the spin-off benefits to local businesses was considerable. It is estimated that the local economies will benefit by up to $50 million.

“The skills acquired by local subcontractors on a project of this scale will also expand those firms’ capacity to engage in largescale capital works in the future. The contractor also invested around $3 million in training, meaning that locals who worked on this project will have transferable experience and skills for future work.”


Detailed planning and design works began immediately, with construction commencing in February 2018.

The entire pipeline, which was constructed from both ends, was scheduled for completion by December 2018. By the end of that year, construction crews had laid all 270 km of pipe that will form the pipeline.

W2BH is made up of approximately 20,800 lengths of steel pipe manufactured by Steel Mains. The pipeline was constructed underground, with the route generally following the trajectory of the Silver City Highway to Broken Hill.

The raw water that will be transported through the pipeline is being sourced near Wentworth on the River Murray. Now the pipeline’s construction has been completed, a John Holland–TRILITY Joint Venture (JV) will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the pipeline infrastructure for a period of 20 years.

Using Australian steel

The equivalent of more than half the amount of steel used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge was rolled in the Illawarra and delivered to far-western NSW, for use in W2BH. The project was eventually named as one of the fastest infrastructure projects ever built in the state.

In 2014, an Options Assessment by NSW Public Works identified Steel Mains’ fusion-bonded, polyethylene-coated Sintakote mild steel cement lined pipes as the preferred material for use in constructing W2BH. The decision was based on a combination of design flexibility, price, laying cost, product quality and service life. Steel Mains, in partnership with Bluescope Steel, was able to offer the desired steel pipeline for the project from a domestic source.

Steelmakers at BlueScope’s Port Kembla plant produced the 29,000 t plus of hot rolled coil needed to build the pipeline. The hot rolled coil was subsequently supplied to Steel Mains’ manufacturing plants in Somerton, Victoria and Kwinana, Western Australia where it was formed into line pipe.

At the plants the hot rolled coils were transformed into spiral welded pipe, in lengths of approximately 12 and 13.5 m, with each section weighing about 3 t. Once the manufacturing process was complete, the pipes were delivered to the project site via a combination of rail and road transport.

The complex manufacturing process included 16 different pipe configurations consisting of different steel grades, thicknesses and pipe joint end-type combinations. At its peak, more than 240 Steel Mains employees were working on the project.

In total, 20,800 individual steel pipe lengths were manufactured and supplied by Steel Mains. Of the 270 km of pipe manufactured, 172 km came from Steel Mains’ Somerton plant, with the remainder from Kwinana.

Steel Mains also used two local fabrication subcontractors in Wentworth and Broken Hill for specialised fabricated pipe specials. This ensured local participation and that a skills legacy was brought to communities in proximity to the pipeline’s construction.

Economic benefits

Alternative pipeline materials that were considered, such as ductile iron cement lined pipe, are not produced in Australia and would need to have been imported from overseas, resulting in millions of dollars in procurement and associated manufacturing lost to the domestic economy.

A key benefit of the Steel Mains and Bluescope solution was that it provided a 100 per cent domestically sourced solution for pipeline materials used in constructing W2BH.

Between 30 to 40 per cent of direct activity from the pipeline construction occured within the NSW economy at BlueScope’s steel production facilities and through the transport of steel product, providing jobs and income for state workers and their families.

Locally sourced pipeline materials also provided considerable benefits to the state and national economy through supply chain benefits as a result of goods and services purchased during the manufacture of the steel pipeline solution.

Significant project

The Illawarra’s Parliamentary Secretary Gareth Ward recently toured the hot strip mill, where slabs of steel are rolled to thickness at Port Kembla. Mr Ward says the pipeline is one of the steelworks’ most significant projects.

“To put it into context there was around 50,000 t of steel in the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” he says.

“The amount of steel used in the W2BH could make four Australian Navy frigates.”

For more information visit the Steel Mains website.

This article was featured in the February 2019 of The Australian Pipeliner. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.

If you have a project you would like featured in The Australian Pipeliner contact Managing Editor David Convery at