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Tuesday, 19 May 1970

Mr Charles Jones asked the Minister for National Development the following question, upon notice:

(1)   Are storm chokes fitted to all nil and/or gas wells in Australia.

(2)   Are there any Commonwealth or State regulations requiring the fitting of storm chokes to oil and gas wells in Australia.

Mr Swartz - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   I should like firstly to describe a 'storm choke' as an understanding of its function and application is essential in answering this question. A 'storm choke' Ls generally understood to mean a sub-surface tubing safety valve. This safety valve, when installed, prevents a naturally producing well from flowing out of control or blowing wild should the surface controls fail or become damaged. Storm chokes are not used on wells being drilled as other safety equipment operable under drilling conditions is used. Storm chokes are not installed in wells produced by pumping or other methods of artificial lift as in these wells there is generally no formation pressure that could cause the well to flow out of control. Storm chokes generally are not installed in on-shore wells as the danger of damage or malfunction of the surface wellhead control equipment is minimal and frequent inspection is possible. On-shore wells can be relatively quickly shut in, in case of emergency. However, a device similar to a storm choke is usually installed in high pressure on-shore gas wells. This device automatically shuts the well in, should tubing pressures rise above or fall below predetermined levels. This is to prevent damage to the well head and flow lines and to prevent a hazardous gas blow. Storm chokes generally are installed in all off-shore wells produced by natural flow so as to provide protection from damage to the platform, and to (he riser between the sea floor and the platform deck. As many platforms are unmanned storm chokes provide an automatic means of closing a well in the event of failure of other control equipment. In Australia, the installation of storm chokes in off-shore wells, producing by natural flow, is mandatory. Storm chokes generally, are not installed nor required in onshore wells.

(2)   In regard to on-shore wells drilled and completed under the terms of State or Territory petroleum legislation, it appears there is no specific requirement for the installation in each and every flowing well of a storm choke. However, State and Territory petroleum regulations or directives do provide the necessary vehicle for a requirement by the State or Territory authority that a storm choke or similar device be installed if that authority considers it necessary to prevent 'Waste' as defined in the regulations or directives; that is to say, to prevent uncontrolled flow. With regard to off-shore wells, operating and safety regulations which are being drafted under Hie Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967-1968 will require the installation of storm chokes in all flowing wells. Pending their promulgation directions have been issued by the Designated Authority in each State and Territory requiring the installation of storm chokes in all off-shore flowing wells.

International Labour Organisation Convention: Sea Going Vessels (Question No. 582) Mr Clyde Cameron asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

(1)   Is it a fact that all State Governments in the Commonwealth have agreed to ratify International Labour Organisation Convention No. 109 governing wages, hours of work and manning of sea-going vessels.

(2)   Is it a fact that the Commonwealth has not yet agreed to ratify Chb Convention; if not, does it propose to do so, and when.

(3)   Will ratification give New Guinean seamen the full entitlements specified in the Convention.

Mr Snedden - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   The Convention, which has not entered into force, is fully complied with in the Commonwealth jurisdiction except on a minor point which requires amendment of the Navigation Act. lt is planned to do this when the Act is next being amended.

(3)   Australian ratification of the Convention would not extend to its non-metropolitan territories. In accordance with the I.L.O. Constitution the Commonwealth Government, following ratification of such a Convention, makes declarations in respect of its non-metropolitan territories indicating the extent to which it undertakes to apply the provisions of the Convention.

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