Pipeline manufacturer Steel Mains supplied almost 30,000 tonnes of steel pipes for the 270km W2BH project, completed in December 2018. The project will secure a long-term water supply for Broken Hill, whilst enabling growth and prosperity for communities in regional NSW.

In October 2017, WaterNSW appointed a consortium of John Holland, MPC Kinetic and TRILITY to design, build, operate and maintain the Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline (W2BH).

WaterNSW CEO, David Harris, said WaterNSW is proud to have led such a significant regional project as the W2BH, which will guarantee water security for the Broken Hill community. The project has been recognised as one of the fastest completed infrastructure projects ever built in New South Wales.

“Approximately $3 million was invested into training, providing workers with transferable experience and skills for future work,” Mr Harris said.

“With the workforce reaching around 500 workers at peak times, local economies experienced benefits of an estimated $50 million.”


The project was scheduled for completion by December 2018, with construction commencing in February 2018. By the end of that year, all 270km of pipe had been laid.

The pipeline was constructed underground, from both ends, following the trajectory of the Silver City Highway to Broken Hill.

The raw water that will be transported through the pipeline is being sourced near Wentworth on the River Murray. A Joint Venture (JV) of John Holland-TRILITY will now be responsible for the pipeline maintenance for a period of 20 years.

Using Australian steel

In 2014, an Options Assessment by NSW Public Works identified Steel Mains’ fusion bonded, polyethylene coated, Sintakote mild steel cement lined pipes as the preferred material for use in W2BH. The decision was based on the design flexibility, price, laying cost, product quality and service life.

Steelmakers at BlueScope’s Port Kembla plant produced the 29,000 plus tonnes of hot rolled coil. The hot rolled coil was then delivered to Steel Mains’ manufacturing plants in Somerton, Victoria, and Kwinana, Western Australia, where it was formed into line pipe. Of the 270km of pipe, 172km was manufactured at the Somerton plant, with the remainder at Kwinana.

At the plants, the hot rolled coils were transformed into spiral welded pipe, in lengths of approximately 12 and 13.5m, with each section weighing about three tonnes. The complex manufacturing process involved more than 240 Steel Mains employees at its peak, facilitating the formation of 16 different pipe configurations. In total, 20,800 individual steel pipe lengths were manufactured by Steel Mains.

Steel Mains also used two local fabrication subcontractors in Wentworth and Broken Hill for specialised fabricated pipe specials, which brought a skills legacy to communities local to the pipeline.

Economic benefits

A key benefit of the Steel Mains solution was that all pipeline materials were domestically sourced.

Between 30 to 40 per cent of direct activity from the pipeline’s construction occurred with the NSW economy at Bluescope’s production facilities and through transportation of the steel product. This provided benefits to the supply chain of NSW state and national economies, along with jobs and income for workers and their families.

The option of importing pipeline materials such as ductile iron cement was ruled out to both take advantage of these benefits, and simultaneously avert significant procurement costs.

Project significance

The Illawarra’s Parliamentary Secretary, Gareth Ward, recently toured the hot strip mill at Port Kembla, where steel is rolled to thickness.

Ward says the pipeline is one of the steelworks’ most significant projects, comprised of the equivalent of over half the amount of steel used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

For more information, visit www.steelmains.com.

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.


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