mgc in motion > papua new guinea > the pipeline

the pipeline

The process of laying the pipeline is complicated and expensive. Logistics alone are impressive bearing in mind each pipe weighs 12 tons and is 36 ft long 32 inches wide. One lorry can only take 2 pipes. The machines to lift them weigh 80 tons alone. There are also a lot of other stages and processes some of which are listed below:

1. Pipes manufactured abroad
2. Pipes brought to PNG by ship (half a million tons so far)
3. River transport up the estuary, as close to the site as possible
4. Agreement with Landowner met and financial remuneration paid
5. Airstrips need to be laid
6. Roads need to be made
7. The Survey team surveys the forest to find the best route though not only for the pipe but also the environment.
8. Then the Tree Felling starts clearing a 30 metres wide strip for a access road and a to lay the pipe over land it will be underground (2 metres deep)
9. Then the land is graded so the land is not so difficult to lay the pipe
10. If rock is encountered then that has to be blasted which needs more specialists for blasting
11. Then the pipe is ‘strung out’ laid out in a line to lay
12. Then if it needs bending a special machine bends it all 12 tons of it.
13. Then once its bent its then welded. This is an automatic machine that welds in a circle around the circumference. This is then checked if faults are found then those have to be welded by hand.
14. Then the pipe is coated where the welds have been made. Then it is cleaned inside by machine.
15. If its swampy conditions then concrete coated pipes are used adding more weight to the pipe.
16. If rivers are to be negotiated the pipes are drilled under the water courses (through solid bedrock)
17. Then a trench is dug for the pipe to be put into
18. Then the pipe is lowered in by large pipe laying machines called sidebooms
19. The trench is back filled
20. Then the ground is reinstated. The conditions are such that vegetation is so quick to grow
21. The access road is left for maintenance and emergencies.

Safety is taken very seriously now that a number of accidents have happened and fatalities have occurred Exxon mobile have now introduced a number of security factors to make sure that this does not happen again. This has meant that any dangerous task Exxon mobile have sent over specialist safety officers to monitor the various dangerous activities. The tree felling side has a safety officer from Exxon. Also a supervisor and safety officer from the French company plus the chainsaw trainer who is to oversee the operators using the chainsaws.

Strict guideline are laid down in the form of method statements, procedures, best practise and risk assessments that are called JSA (Job Safety Analysis). These run very much along the same lines as the ones we use in the UK.

Feedback forms are issued to operators to complete on safety and PPE awareness. These were written in Pigeon English the national language of Papua New Guinea.

Before the day started we would have a safety meeting to determine every bodies responsibilities concerning the work. Followed by a toolbox talk about a point of safety for that day. During this time a safety officer would then also give a talk on safety followed by the doctor. He would raise awareness on medical issues such as snake bites, dehydration etc. An ambulance was on site alongside the doctor all of the time just in case due to the dangerous nature of the work. Anti serum was kept back at base camp for snake bites.

Normally each chainsaw operator would have 2 spotters who act for every ones safety. Specially for people who might walk into the danger area bearing in mind the danger could be at least 300 metres wide. Then a chainsaw trainer who would supervise the operation to make sure this was done safely and the tree was going to fall in the correct direction. (See drawing)

All PPE was worn in accordance with best practise. Chainsaw boots, chainsaw summer lightweight trousers and a helmet with ear defenders, ear muffs and a visor. Safety glasses were worn when possible as some of the trees sap and sawdust caused nasty eye infections and irritations. One of the trees actually if you came into contact with its leaves would leave severe burns to the skin. The locals would sometimes punish the children when they were naughty by brushing this across the face or buttocks of the child. No chainsaw gloves were worn due to the heat and loss of grip. However, micor gloves were worn which were very good for protecting the hands.

The chainsaws that are being used are three models all Stihl, some models are from Brazil but the rest coming from Germany. The models are 260 with a 15’’ bar for little trees. These we hardly ever used. 381 (Brazilian Made) with a 20’’ bar for small and medium trees and 660 and 078’s (Brazilian Made) for larger trees with 30’’ and 36’’ bars respectively. The 078 and 381 models not seen in the UK market 078 being in the chassis of the 880 but with a bored out 660 engine. The quality of the petrol is poor and many saws have seized due to having no control over the mix and lots of water moisture in the petrol. The petrol came mixed so up till now there has been no control over the mix. Recently we have been able to secure more 2 stroke mix so we are doubling up on the mixture now making it 25:1.It was found out that the two stroke mix that was being used was for outboard engines which has different qualities to normal chainsaw 2 stoke mix as its working in different engines reving lower. This led to a very high rate of saws seizing up. My saw lasted 6 weeks from the box unitl it seized. Not very long.

Some of the trees have very different habits ans some have very large buttresses at the base of them with the centre of the tree (some species) being virtually nonexistent. All the tension is held in the (legs) buttresses and even cutting a small amount can lead to jammed saws due to excessive compression being found in the legs if the tree has a slight lean. Sizes and heights vary enormously but most large trees are around 40 - 55 metres high. Some of the trees are very difficult to see which way they are inclined and when they fall if they fall into other trees a domino effect can happen which makes felling very dangerous. So safety distances have to be increased to at least 3 tree lengths. I felled a tree the other day. I made the directional cut into the front for about 10’’ deep and heard noises and the whole tree fell over with roots and all. So very unpredictable.

Operators equipment
Each chainsaw operator used the following equipment on site:
1. Chainsaws
2. Machetes
3. Whistle (in case of accidents)
4. Wedges

The following equipment was made available at each site:
4. Fire extinguisher
5. Wedges (if required)
6. Fuel cans
7. Radios
8. Maintenance equipment
9. First Aid kits
10 Filing kits and combination spanners

Grading System
Each chainsaw operator was assessed and graded into one of two categories:

Grade 1
Given to the most experienced and competent operators.
Only operators in this category were allowed to fell large trees

Grade 2
Given to be operators with reasonable competency.
Confident in felling most types of trees and able to cross cut without constant supervision.

Grade 3
This will be given to novices with little or no experience and need lots of training.
These workers shall not be allowed to fell or cross cut trees until training is completed.