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Colin Barnett. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian.
Colin Barnett. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian.

The long-awaited Bunbury to Albany gas pipeline will be up and running by 2015, according to Premier Colin Barnett.

The State Government released details of the much-anticipated project following a regional State Cabinet meeting in Albany today.

It has selected a preferred corridor and operational model for the 350km pipe, which now has an estimated cost of $135 million – much less than the $450 million originally anticipated.

The reduced cost is due to the pipeline’s 150mm diameter, smaller than originally planned.

The Premier said the reduced-capacity pipe could carry 12 terajoules of gas per day, less than the 50 terajoule capacity originally mooted, but could be “easily expanded” to meet future needs.

The pipeline will service Manjimup and several other towns along the corridor including Donnybrook, Bridgetown and Mt Barker.

It will also have the capacity to branch from Mt Barker to Katanning in the future, potentially also servicing other towns on that route such as Cranbrook and Kojonup.

The Premier said a tender for the construction of the project would be awarded by mid-2013 with construction to begin mid-2014.

He estimated construction would take less than six months, meaning the pipeline could be operational by the start of 2015.

The project was a 2008 Liberal election pledge to reduce Albany’s reliance on bottled gas and construction was to begin by the end of 2012.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said the news was a very late announcement and a broken promise.

“On top of that, as I understand it, there is a significant cost to householders if they connect to natural gas which I don’t think has been factored into this promise,” he said.

The Premier conceded the Government had broken its promise but did not expect a backlash from the marginal Albany seat in the State election.

He said there would be substantial savings to households connected to the pipeline.

The pipeline is to be designed, built and operated by a private sector proponent with the Government retaining an interest through Verve Energy.

Mr Barnett said the successful proponent would identify an easement up to 50m wide within the identified corridor and be responsible for consulting and negotiating with landholders and communities, and for obtaining relevant environmental, Native Title and planning approvals.

“The Government will co-fund the project through a mix of upfront capital and an ongoing subsidy,” he said.

“The cost of the project, and the extent of the Government’s financial contribution, will be determined as part of the tender process but early estimates are for a capital cost of $135 million, inclusive of construction, reticulation and conversion of existing appliances.”