INPEX win APPEA Environment Award 2009

INPEX today accepted an APPEA award for excellence and innovation in environmental management at the annual APPEA conference, being held in Brisbane.

The entry “Ichthys Project – Onshore Geotechnical Investigation, Blaydin Point, NT” was chosen by APPEA as the most outstanding entry in Category B Exploration Company.

INPEX Australia Managing Director Seiya Ito said the safety, environment and engineering teams exhibited true dedication in achieving the best outcome for the drilling program and the environment.

“I am very proud of the Ichthys Project team, which has worked collaboratively to produce such excellent results,” Mr Ito said.

In 2009, INPEX conducted a geotechnical investigation at the Ichthys Project’s proposed onshore processing plant location on Blaydin Point, Darwin, Northern Territory. The investigation was part of the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase and the results are helping the engineering team design the most appropriate infrastructure for the onshore plant.

Mr Ito said that a number of the investigation boreholes were located in Darwin’s intertidal mangrove areas and in salt flats.

“This presented a number of challenges for INPEX in particular accessing and working in these areas, but also the environmental impact on Blaydin Point,” Mr Ito said.

Some of the challenges included:

  • regular tidal inundation
  • working in soft substrates e.g. sand and mud
  • presence of potential acid sulfate soils
  • sensitivity of the mangrove environment
  • potential threats from crocodiles, and
  • being surrounded by biting insects.

Mr Ito said the challenges required an innovative approach, combining technology, safety and environmental innovations to achieve an integrated solution for the drilling program.

“Everything needed to be done to minimise clearing and promote rapid regeneration of cleared mangrove areas,” Mr Ito said.

“We also had to minimise disturbance to potential acid sulfate soils, which could otherwise result in acid leachate.

“At the same time we needed to ensure a safe working platform and achieve the best results for the geotechnical investigation.”

For clearing, INPEX used a modified swamp excavator with a purpose-built disc-cutting attachment, which allowed mangroves to be cut near ground level, leaving rootstock intact. For drilling, a number of options were considered and it was determined that an amphibious buggy ("marsh buggy") on which a drilling rig could be mounted, would be used.

As with the swamp excavator, the wide tracks of the buggy allowed for load distribution over a large area, which meant that it only exerted a ground pressure of approximately 1.8–2.2 psi. It was the first time the ‘marsh buggy’, which was sourced from Louisiana in the United States, had been used in Australia.

Mr Ito said the use of the buggy helped to maintain the stability and integrity of mangrove soils, reducing the potential risk of erosion and allowing for improved mangrove regeneration.

The geotechnical investigation was conducted on behalf of the Ichthys Project Joint Venture Participants INPEX and Total E&P Australia. INPEX was supported by lead contractor Arup and drilling contractor J&S Drilling.

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