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‘For us, it was not just a commercial project but the chance to test ourselves again’

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’.

ExxonMobil contracted Volga-Dnepr Airlines, the world’s largest transporter of outsize and heavyweight air cargo, which over more than 20 years had demonstrated its unique ability to ‘make the impossible possible’.

When teams of specialists from ExxonMobil and Volga-Dnepr first got together in 2008 to discuss the project, one question dominated the conversation: was it theoretically possible

to fly thousands of tonnes of large, heavy, complex and sensitive equipment into the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea to enable the building of a gas conditioning plant?

The combined expertise and knowledge of the two organisations established that undertaking such a complex air logistics task was indeed possible – but first they had to build an airport.

For Volga-Dnepr, working on projects some years in advance of performing an actual flight operation is part and parcel of its unique place in the world of aviation. The size and design of big pieces of high value industrial equipment, aircraft components and space satellites are often based on their ability to fit into the airline’s fleet of giant Antonov

An-124 freighters because major global corporations recognise the vital role Volga-Dnepr plays in their supply chain.

In the first phase of their cooperation, a joint team from ExxonMobil and Volga- Dnepr travelled to Papua New Guinea to evaluate four proposed locations for a new Highlands airport. This was subsequently reduced to two sites following inspections and, ultimately, one location in Komo based on Volga-Dnepr’s study of load lists and route options.

Back in the UK, members of ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG Project team met with the airline to plan how many An-124 flights would be required, which routes would be used, the frequency of operations, the length of the project and flight programme, and the costs involved.

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