Resource setbacks plug gas expansion

WHILE the talk of the increased export potential of WA’s gas has the sector preparing for another development boom, the State’s domestic natural gas market has suffered setback delays in two major resource projects.

The 1100km pipeline from the Pilbara to the south west of the State will not be significantly expanded to meet growth anticipated in the next two years.

Delays in launching the Kingstream steel project, and the more gradual expansion of the troubled Murrin Murrin nickel venture, both expected to be big gas consumers, has greatly reduced growth estimates by the pipeline’s owner, Epic Energy.

Two years ago the company expected to be delivering nearly 1000 terajoules of gas a day from the Pilbara, almost double recent figures.

However, continuing delays in launching the 2.8 billion Kingstream project, near Geraldton, have sharply reduced expectations.

When in full production it could use up to 100 terajoules a day. Doubts about the new Labor Government’s commitment to building a port at Oakajee, for the venture, add to the uncertainties surrounding the project.

Murrin Murrin, operated by Anaconda Nickel, is proceeding with a more sedately pace expansion program, while it continues to solve early problems at its laterite nickel project. This has also reduced the likely market for gas in the next year or two.

Despite these setbacks, Epic Energy remains optimistic about the long-term prospects for the pipeline, for which it paid $2.4 billion, far above market expectations.

The then Minister for Resources Development, and the current leader of the Opposition, Colin Barnett, could not conceal his delight at the windfall price his government received for what had been a Western Power operation.

Epic Energy made it clear that while it was disappointed in the slower growth in the use of the pipeline, it remained optimistic.

Steady increases in the demand for electricity, and the use of gas-fired power stations would increase the flow of gas along the line.

There was also optimism among WA’s alumina producers that the industry would continue to grow (it already produces a quarter of the world’s alumina). This was a big user of natural gas, and Alcoa, one of the two local alumina producers, is the pipeline’s biggest customer.

Epic Energy says it has introduced considerable improvements, for example controlling both the WA pipeline, and another it owns in South Australia, from a centre in Perth. It has also introduced more comprehensive maintenance and emergency procedures along the Dampier to Bunbury line.

Next month it is expected that a longstanding dispute with the previous State Government will move closer to resolution.

An independent regulator will hand down a draft decision on a claim by Epic Energy that the State Government should pay $1.08 for natural gas delivered to Kwinana, according to an agreement made at the time of the purchase of the pipeline.

Platinum blooms as print medium

n Catie Low

A sponsorship deal with Aquarius Platinum has allowed artist and public relations consultant Cathrina Read to revive the lost art of platinum photographic prints in Perth.

Aquarius Platinum director Keith Liddell said Ms Read approached them a couple of years ago looking for a sponsor for the platinum prints.

“We were looking for ways to put the spotlight on platinum,” Mr Liddell said

“We liked the fact that we could support a local artist and bring know how into Perth...platinum when you look at it is a really beautiful metal.”

As one of the world’s biggest producers of platinum, Aquarius has agreed to provide funding for materials including the platinum estimated to be worth $6,000 a litre.

“My sponsorship with Aquarius is really financial sponsorship, the platinum costs about $6,000 a litre, without them this would be a dream,” Ms Read said

The platinum prints display a far wider range of tones than any other traditional method producing images with an almost “luminous” quality.

“There are only a few hundred photographers worldwide who do platinum prints, but it’s recently gone through a renaissance in the last 10 years,” Ms Read said.

“There is nothing that has come about yet that is superior to platinum in quality.”

To capture the intricate detail in these prints, the negative used by Ms Read is the same size as the actual print.

Aquarius Platinum paid for Ms Read to travel to Sydney last year to attend a course on platinum prints and with this knowledge she has created a collection of prints featuring Australian flowers for The Platinum Print – Flowers in hand-coated platinum, at the Gallows Gallery in Mosman Park.

“Part of the goal of the exhibition is to demonstrate that photography can be art,” Ms Read said.

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