There are currently 31 pipelines operating in NSW with licences granted under the Pipelines Act 1967. 30 of these pipelines convey either gas or petroleum products. One licensed pipeline conveys water.
Pipeline licensing process
The NSW Government licenses the construction and operation of cross-country transmission pipelines under the Pipelines Act 1967.
In general, the licensing process can involve these stages:
Stage 1: Authority to Survey (Optional)
- Granted by the Minister for Energy.
- Allows access to lands to investigate pipeline routes and undertake any necessary survey works, which can include but is not limited to supporting route selection, engineering, environmental, geotechnical and heritage considerations for the proposed pipeline.
- Is subject to conditions.
Stage 2: Licence
- Project approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 is required prior to any pipeline licence application being considered.
- Pipeline licence application is submitted to the Minister for Energy, through the Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC).
- Resolution of any Native Title claims within pipeline route.
- Licence application is determined by the Minister for Energy.
- If approved, the licence is subject to conditions included through the major projects environmental and planning assessment process as well as those applied by the Minister for Energy.
- Allows construction of the licensed pipeline within the project approval area.
- Licence may be varied upon application to the Minister.
Stage 3: Consent to Operate
- Granted by the Minister for Energy once the OECC assesses that the pipeline can operate safely.
- Subject to conditions within the licence.
You can find details of proposed projects and the environmental assessment requirements for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at Major Projects.
Based on the result of an environmental assessment, the pipeline licensee is usually required to develop and implement an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the construction and operation of a pipeline. An EMP is only part of the pipeline licensee’s safety management system and is integrated into the Pipeline Management Plan.
Land access requirements for construction, operation and maintenance of a pipeline
An easement over land provides access for a licensee to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline, without having to acquire or own the whole parcel of land.
Pipeline licence applicants are encouraged to negotiate easement agreements with landowners. These can take the form of an agreement that outlines permissions and restrictions regarding access to land, including any specific requirements from the landowner.
If a landowner seeks compensation for an easement, compensation can be in a variety of forms negotiated between the proponent and the landowner. Compensation could involve an agreement where the licensee conducts maintenance, earthworks or infrastructure upgrades for the landowner.
If no agreement can be reached, the Minister for Energy will request information from both parties about the impasse. If the Minister for Energy is satisfied that the licensee has taken all reasonable steps to enter into an agreement with a landowner, the Minster for Energy may allow for a compulsorily acquired easement with compensation being given to the landowner.
Compensation is given in accordance with the principles outlined in the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991.
If you are an affected landowner, you should consider seeking legal advice in relation to your land access negotiations.
The pipeline planning and assessment process also involves consultation with landowners about access and minimising any interference to the land.
Authority to Survey
An Authority to Survey is separate to a pipeline licence. It is not a requirement for developing a pipeline but the pipeline proponent may apply to the Minister for Energy, under Part 2 of the Pipelines Act 1967, for an Authority to Survey (ATS) to access lands along the proposed pipeline route.
An ATS can only be used by the proponent where there is evidence all reasonable steps have been taken to negotiate access, but an agreement could not be reached. Should an ATS be used, there are strict terms the proponent must follow to allow lawful entry.
An Authority to Survey authorises the holder, subject to any conditions of the Authority to Survey, to enter lands specified to undertake works including to:
- take soil and vegetation samples for examination and testing
- consider technical and safety considerations as part of the investigation into possible pipeline routes, including set up and use of any supporting equipment
- carry out surveys to support route selection and engineering, environmental, geotechnical and heritage considerations for the pipeline.
This vital information can assist in any submission made as part of the Environmental Impact Statement, and act as part of the planning process to determine the proposed pipeline route.
Prior to an Authority to Survey application being considered by the Minister, a consultation process will enable affected landowners and occupiers the opportunity to provide feedback on conditions to be attached to the Authority to Survey.
Read the current standard Authority to Survey instrument, including the standard conditions.
There are currently two active Authority to Surveys granted by the Minister for Energy.
One is to Jemena for the Port Kembla Lateral Looping Pipeline. Read this Authority to Survey.
Another is granted to Santos for the Hunter Gas Pipeline. Read this Authority to Survey.
Please find a searchable PDF of lots impacted by the Hunter Gas Pipeline Authority to Survey here.
An ATS application has been received from Hunter Gas Pipeline Pty Ltd related to the Narrabri Lateral Pipeline. Please find the application here. A consultation period is open for impacted landholders only and will close on 6 November 2023. Impacted landholders have been directly contacted.
Pipelines licensed in NSW under the Pipelines Act 1967 are usually designed, constructed, operated and maintained in accordance with Australian Standard AS 2885 - Pipelines - Gas and Liquid Petroleum. Where pipelines do not carry gas or liquid petroleum gas as defined under AS2885, a pipeline proponent may suggest an alternative Standard for approval by the Secretary of the Office of Energy and Climate Change.
Under the Pipelines Act 1967 and the Pipelines Regulation 2013, all pipeline licensees are required to lodge a pipeline management plan with the OECC. The regulation also requires the pipeline licensee to monitor performance and procedures by conducting periodical independent third-party audits of their pipeline management system.
If any issues are found, the pipeline licensee must address these issues within an agreed timeframe to ensure safe and reliable pipeline operations.
Pipelines Regulation 2013
In 2013, the following regulation was remade under the Pipelines Act 1967.
- The objective of Pipelines Regulation 2013, is to ensure that Licensed Pipelines are designed, constructed, maintained and operated, in a safe and reliable way. The regulation also provides requirements for licences and licence areas.
The Subordinate Legislation Act 1989 requires a Regulatory Impact Statement be implemented for all new statutory rules:
Incidents, emergencies and accidents
Under the Pipelines Regulation 2013, pipeline licensees are required to report pipeline related accidents, incidents and emergencies to the OECC.
If a person is injured in an accident involving the construction, maintenance or operation of a pipeline, the Licensee must notify the Secretary of the OECC in writing within 21 days. In the event of death or serious injury, the Secretary must be informed within 24 hours. A comprehensive report detailing the accident must be submitted.
If a pipeline carrying a specific substance suffers a leak or if the substance from the pipeline ignites, the Licensee must notify the Secretary of the OECC immediately. The Licensee must carry out repairs as soon as possible. Once repairs are completed, the Licensee has 7 days to submit a comprehensive report documenting the incident, the cause, and details of the repairs carried out.
The Licensee of a pipeline must inform the Secretary immediately:
- if an event occurs that results in emergency procedures being carried out on a pipeline
- if unforeseen circumstances cause a disruption to the operation of a pipeline or interrupts the flow through the pipeline.
Pipeline performance reports
The Pipelines Regulation 2013 requires all Pipeline Licensees to lodge an Annual Report on the performance of their pipeline safety management system.
From 30 June 2016, Pipeline Performance Reports must be submitted using this online reporting application.
Pipeline Performance Reports are to comply with the reporting guideline.
‘These reports are reviewed by the OECC to ensure safe operations of the pipelines and the secure provision of energy supply. The information is collated to prepare a state-wide report. The most recent reports can be viewed by accessing the links below.