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Finding natural oil and gas energy reserves is challenging enough but extracting them can be even more complex and capital intensive and leaves no margin for error.

Increasingly, the world’s leading energy corporations have to target more remote regions of the planet to develop new processing and pumping facilities. The risks are high but so too are the rewards and economic benefits for both industry and national and local economies.

In Papua New Guinea, the discovery of natural gas deposits in its Hela, Southern Highlands and Western Provinces offered the potential to increase the country’s GDP. ExxonMobil PNG Limited, the operator of the PNG LNG Project, estimates that over the life of the gas production and processing project, over nine trillion cubic feet of gas will be produced and sold. The company began

construction of the Project in 2010 and the first LNG will be exported in the second half of 2014.

But first there was a major logistics challenge.

Building a gas conditioning plant in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea was not going to be easy. The region is predominantly rugged mountainous terrain and conditions are made more challenging by the 9,000mm of rainfall in the area throughout the year.

Logistically the biggest challenge was to deliver equipment and materials from the ports of Lae and Port Moresby to the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant, which is located in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea at an elevation of over 1500m. A large percentage of the 800kms of road from Lae are dirt tracks with gradients of over 20% and there are 99 bridge crossings on the route as well. The

maximum gross vehicle weight on a lot of the bridges is limited to 60,000kg, so with prime mover and trailer weights the maximum cargo weight via road was low by industry standards at around 25,000 kilos. Additionally, the road between Lae and Hides has been subject to road closures due to landslides, washouts and other uncontrollable factors.

Over 7,000 loads have already travelled this route. However, the Hides plant also required a lot of large, delicate and sensitive equipment in order to commence operation and the poor quality roads and restrictions between Lae and the jobsite were deemed not suitable to transport these materials. Another transport solution was clearly required.

ExxonMobil recognised that to overcome these challenges would require an innovative logistics solution – and a lot of ‘thinking outside of the box’.

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