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Natural Gas - Pipeline Safety

Nova is one of New Zealand’s largest natural gas retailers including being the country’s leading natural gas supplier to commercial businesses.

Natural Gas is piped directly to customers. It fuels efficient, high performance  technology for hot water, heating and cooking.

Natural gas is used in homes throughout the North Island for heating and cooking.  It is also widely used in the commercial and industrial sector for power generation and heating operations in industries such as dairy, timber, forestry, food, manufacturing, chemical processing and many other heat requirement operations.

In its natural state natural gas is a colourless and odourless mixture of hydrocarbons extracted from underground gas fields located in Taranaki. Once extracted it is then compressed and transported through a high-pressure pipeline system to gas networks and industrial sites throughout the North Island.

The characteristic gas odour is added to the gas, as a safety measure to to make it easily detectable before distribution to customers. All gas in Network systems is odourised.

If you damage a gas pipeline it must be immediately reported to Nova Energy (0800 NOVA 111) so that any necessary repairs and safety checks can be undertaken.

Consequences of damaging or rupturing a gas pipeline

Rupturing a natural gas pipeline is a hazard that needs to be urgently reported because:

  • Escaping gas can ignite and cause serious harm to life and property.
  • Gas could accumulate in adjacent buildings, enter underground services and could result in an explosive mixture.
  • Air can get into the pipeline and form an explosive mixture.
  • You could be found liable under the Health Safety in Employment Act and fined or imprisoned.
  • You may be liable for costs associated to the repair and consequential damage.
  • Possible disruption to gas consumers.

Underground pipelines are used because they are the safest method of transporting natural gas over long distances. Even though every precaution is taken incidents do occur and while most only result in minor damage to the pipeline, there is the possibility that injury, death, significant damage to property, and business interruptions may occur.

External interference is the leading cause of pipeline incidents, most commonly the use of excavation and thrust boring equipment.

Section 19 of the Health Safety in Employment Act 1992 requires people working near a gas pipeline to take all practicable steps to ensure their own safety or prevent harm to any other person.

Anyone, who damages a pipeline as a result of unsafe practices, may be found in breach of this act and liable to prosecution by the occupational safety and health service.

Gas network safe operating practices

When planning your work it is important to contact Nova Energy:

  1. Obtain plans, request mark outs and for the area.
  2. When you get to within 1000mm of the known Main or Service position, use hand tools only.
  3. If running parallel to a gas main, dig pot holes, using hand tools to expose the line at intervals. Also watch for service connections coming off the main.
  4. Where a strategic Pipeline has been identified Nova Energy will supervise all works in close proximity.

How can you stay safe?

  • Follow safe operating guidelines.
  • Contact Nova Energy prior to commencing excavations.
  • Follow Nova Energy instructions.
  • Use the free information service.
  • Never put yourself or others at risk.
  • Never cover up an incident, it is less expensive to repair problems when they occur rather than discovering the problem later.
  • Keep up to date plans on site at all times.
  • Obtain a copy of “Guide for Safety with Underground Services” from the Occupational Safety and Health service.
  • Download NZUAG Road Worker Booklet.