With Melbourne's dam levels getting down to below 30 percent
at time this year, the search for sustainable sources of drinking
water has been a key priority for the Victorian Government. The
result was the decision to build a desalination plant using a
Public Private Partnership delivery method.
The successful bidder, the AquaSure consortium -Suez
Environnement, Degremont, Thiess and Macquarie Capital Group - was
advised by Clayton Utz throughout the bidding process for the
project. Partner Marcus Davenport was a member of the team of
partners dedicated to the project which also includedDan Fitts,
Naomi Kelly, Brendan Groves and Simon Irvine.
So Marcus, what is the project all about?
"Our client, the AquaSure
consortium, was shortlisted by the Victorian State Government as
one of two bidders selected to tender to design, build operate and
maintain the desalination plant and related works. When built, the
plant is designed to be capable of producing 150 gigalitres of
water per year, which makes it the largest in the Southern
Hemisphere. It's also being designed with the capability to be
upgraded to produce 200 gigalitres. Once it's fully up and
running, it'll supply about one-third of Melbourne's annual
drinking water requirements."
"AquaSure is required to have water production begin by around
the end of 2011. This is an ambitious timetable, but water security
is an important issue. It's not just the Victorian Government
that is focusing on water security - there's a desal plant
operating in Perth and Brisbane, and plans for a desal plant in
South Australia - but the Victorian one is the largest one, and no
doubt its success might give reassurance to other States looking
The plant will be built in the Wonthaggi region - "I
understand the location was selected because the brine produced as
a by-product of the desalination process ultimately goes out into
the ocean (after impurities are removed), and the location with its
strong currents assists to efficiently disperse the brine " -
and will be more than just a desalination plant, as Marcus and his
""It's fair to say that
the size and complexity of the project and the tender process took
many people by surprise. Effectively we are talking about four
major projects in one - the desalination plant itself, two nearly
2km underground tunnels out to sea to transport the sea water to
the plant and the brine back to the ocean, an 85km transfer
pipeline to transfer water to the storage dams, and around an 80km
underground transmission line to provide power to the
Marcus' role on the project focused on aspects of the
project deed and the ancillary documentation, including the
contractual arrangements for both the purchase of power for the
operation of the plant and renewable energy credits, which is a key
part of the project, as the plant will use around 90 megawatts of
electricity from the Victorian energy grid, and the renewable
energy credits are intended to provide a 100 percent "green
offset" of that power use.
What do you think you brought to the project?
"Stamina! Around 100 colleagues
worked on aspects of the project from time to time and there was a
core team of 20 or so who worked many long days and nights on the
project over a 12 month period. It also reinforced for us in the
team that we get the opportunity to work on the very biggest and
most complex projects and that we have the capacity to undertake
these sorts of deals, which is a good feeling to have. And at the
end of it, you're relieved that all the effort has ultimately
paid off for our client."
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