The bushfire outlook in the Northern Territory

As we approach the spring and summer months, the Spring 2023 Seasonal Bushfire Outlook serves as a crucial call to action for communities and businesses throughout Australia. It highlights the need for preparedness against bushfires. These natural disasters pose a significant threat to various sectors across Australia, including industries such as the gas sector.

With this intensifying risk, it’s important to understand the potential impacts on the gas sector and explore mitigation strategies to safeguard infrastructure and operations.

The risks of bushfires to the gas industry

Bushfires pose various risks to the gas industry. Here are some of the main impacts to be aware of:

● Infrastructure vulnerability: Bushfires can directly impact critical gas infrastructure, such as pipelines, processing facilities and storage terminals. Intense heat and flames can damage or destroy these assets, disrupting the supply chain and causing widespread outages.

● Operational disruptions: Besides physical damage, the operational continuity of gas facilities can be severely affected by bushfires. Power outages, road closures, and workforce disruptions due to evacuations or safety measures can hamper daily operations, leading to supply chain interruptions.

● Environmental concerns: Bushfires release significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. The gas sector, which often deals with environmental concerns already, runs the risk of facing extra scrutiny due to the potential exacerbation of greenhouse gas emissions during and after bushfires.

● Public safety: The intense heat from bushfires can damage or compromise pipelines, causing leaks and potential explosions. Escaping gas can exacerbate fire spread, increasing the danger to nearby communities and gas plant workers.

How can the gas sector mitigate these risks?

In the face of mounting challenges posed by bushfires, the gas sector is faced with the important task of risk mitigation. To safeguard both its infrastructure and the surrounding communities, a multifaceted approach is essential.

● Bushfire risk assessments – Conducting thorough risk assessments specific to bushfires is a valuable starting point when it comes to mitigation strategies. This involves getting expert advice on bushfire management including areas such as environment, operations, vegetation, access/egress, landscape risk, ignition risk and human factors.

● Fuel management – When we talk about fuel, we’re referring to vegetation that fuels the spread and intensity of a bushfire, such as scrub, leaves, grass, undergrowth, twigs, shrubs, bark and any other type of vegetation that will burn easily. Regular monitoring and maintenance of vegetation near gas infrastructure is crucial to prevent overgrowth that could lead to accidents or fires. Strategies include routine inspections, selective clearing, and using appropriate techniques to maintain safe distances between gas infrastructure and vegetation.

● Emergency plans – Having well-structured emergency plans designed for dealing with bushfires is a must in the gas industry. These plans lay out specific steps, ongoing staff training, and set communication lines to ensure a rapid and effective response for public safety.