The World's Biggest Aircraft Can't Help Exxon's PNG Gas Fix

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(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. built a runway to land some of the world’s biggest planes as part of its endeavor to tap gas riches in one of the most remote spots on Earth.

But an earthquake Monday in Papua New Guinea wrecked the 3.2 kilometer (2 mile) airstrip, potentially hampering efforts to restart Exxon’s $19 billion PNG LNG project. The export plant has been shut while it assesses damage to a gas processing plant, well pads and other infrastructure in the remote highlands.

About three-fourths of the Komo airfield runway has been destroyed and Exxon is flying in specialists by helicopter to survey damage, Frank Kretschmer, the company’s senior vice president for Asia-Pacific LNG Marketing, said at the LNG Supplies for Asian Markets conference in Singapore.

The airstrip at Komo International Airport was designed to accommodate Russian-built Antonov AN-124, according to the contractors that helped build it. Some of those aircraft have payloads up to 120 tons, the biggest door dimensions of any cargo model and are used for shipments including NASA rockets and concert sets for Madonna and U2.

Exxon has said there’s no indication of damage to the gas pipeline that runs about 700 kilometers from the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant in the highlands, near where the quake struck, to the liquefaction plant near Port Moresby, which wasn’t affected by the earthquake.

There are potentially seven active faults along the pipeline route between the Hides plant and Kopi, near the coast, according to an environmental impact statement. The pipes were to be “designed to withstand earthquakes with a return frequency of 300 years” and should have “sufficient ductile strength to deform without rupturing under more severe shaking with a return frequency of 1,500 years.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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