Met test passes with flying colours

WHEN Tropical Cyclone Marcia passed near Gladstone Port on the morning of February 20 this year it was the first major test of the world-class meteorological and oceanographic forecast guidance systems and procedures that the Queensland Curtis LNG project had put in place before the plant opened in December.
Met test passes with flying colours Met test passes with flying colours Met test passes with flying colours Met test passes with flying colours Met test passes with flying colours

QCLNG image courtesy of Bechtel.

Anthony Barich

With plans for more than 100 vessels visiting this year, QCLNG has integrated a comprehensive set of safety systems, including weather guidance from MetraWeather.

The forecasting is in place to assist operational planning; to ensure the safety of pilots, crews and onshore personnel; and to mitigate the risks of extreme weather events on port infrastructure and assets.

It’s important given QCLNG is Queensland’s first LNG plant and it is close to the Great Barrier Reef marine park.

Port operations worldwide are impacted by weather, wind and waves, so weather guidance is an intrinsic part of safely operating a modern port.

Port pilots must be able to board safely before entering a harbour; tug boat crews need to know the conditions in which they’ll operate; and navigation, berthing and mooring can all be impacted.

In the days preceding the cyclone, MetraWeather provided Weather Threat Matrices showing the forecast threats of wind, precipitation and lightning, so the firm’s consultant meteorologists conducted one-on-one briefings with the operations manager.

After assessing the evidence and the management plan, QCLNG executives made the decision to cease loading the LNG tanker, the Methane Lydon Volney, and to up anchor and steam to safety in deep water off the Queensland coast.

On the same day, the three Gladstone coal terminals also suspended loading.

Mining giant, BHP Billiton, ceased operation of its coal trains.

The harbour’s master closed the port, and a decision was taken to evacuate all vessels.

By late-afternoon, all thirty-four vessels in port had been instructed to up anchor and sail.

It was a smart decision. Within hours the Bureau of Meteorology upgraded Marcia to a Category 5 – the highest tropical cyclone grading.

The cyclone tracking placed the QCLNG port in the middle of Marcia’s path, with destructive winds up to 270km/h were forecast near the core of the system.

Tropical Cyclone Marcia certainly threw out a strong challenge to QCLNG.

Due to the comprehensive measures and procedures that were in place, there were no injuries to crews and support personnel. QCLNG’s assets and infrastructure maintained uninterrupted supply and production throughout the severe weather event.

Two days later the Methane Lydon Volnay safely re-entered Gladstone Port and completed loading LNG before sailing to southeast Asia.

The positive outcome is a testimony to QCLNG’s informed executive decision-making, their primary focus on safety standards and risk mitigation, and the benefits of receiving real-time, site-specific science-based weather forecasting.