A shortage of cargo aircraft?
Friday, July 13, 2012
The oil and gas industry uses a lot of cargo aircraft, many of which were built by the Russians during the Cold War and are not being built any more, said Lesley Cripps of aircraft charterers Chapman Freeborn. This could mean problems in the future
The oil and gas industry makes big use of large cargo aircraft, such as the Antonov 124 (max 150 ton payload, with its own crane).
But these aircraft are not being built any more, said Lesley Cripps, Group Sales Manager Energy with UK aircraft chartering specialist Chapman Freeborn, speaking at the Digital Energy Journal supply chains conference in Stavanger on Feb 28th.
The air heavy cargo industry has been dominated by Soviet aircraft since the end of the cold war, including Antonovs and Ilyshin-76s (IL76), she said.
Production of the IL76 has been much reduced since the 1990s. There are just 30 Il76 aircraft certified to fly in Europe, and the remainder in the Arabian Gulf and Africa.
Production of the Antonov 124 (which can carry 150 tons and has its own crane) was suspended in 2004, and there's a fleet of around 20 aircraft.
The US manufactured Lockheed Hercules aircraft has a 23 ton payload, although it is no longer in production. Only 118 were ever built, 48 were written off, 8 withdrawn, so only 62 are in service, of which 40 are with government.
'In the near future, unless someone comes up with a source or start building new aircraft, they will soon die up,' she said. 'Those are the only aircraft that can carry some oil and gas equipment.'
Oil companies often charter aircraft to carry pipe lengths between Stavanger and Aberdeen. Not many aircraft are long enough to take the pipe. 'The Aleutians and Antonovs are such a key player in the energy industry.'
Oil Spill Response Ltd, an organisation which runs a network of oil spill response organisations around the world, keeps a Hercules on standby to drop dispersants on an oil spill.
Chapman Freeborn is 30 years old and has over 30 offices around the world, and charters both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Its head office is near Gatwick Airport, London.
It has offices in many oil and gas locations and can arrange aircraft in under 2 hours.
It was very involved in providing aircraft to evacuate oil and gas personnel from Libya and Egypt during the recent unrest.
It provides assistance with permits, knowledge about airports, and talking to local governments.
Chapman Freeborn vets the aircraft operators, and also has 3rd party liability insurance to cover its costs if there was an accident.
For geological surveys, you have to choose between a helicopter and fixed wing aircraft. Helicopters can maintain a constant ground position and land in trickier areas, but are more expensive to operate and can only cover about a third as much distance. They also need more maintenance work per flying hour than fixed wing aircraft, she said.
People usually choose helicopters because they provide a higher resolution survey because they move more slowly.
'In most cases an aircraft has to be modified if special survey equipment is used,' she said.
To get permits, you need to know how many passengers, and what baggage and cargo they are carrying. 'From the information that we are given we can assess the type of aircraft required, whether to go nonstop, if passengers need visas.'
Sometimes permits to land chartered aircraft are easier to obtain at smaller airports than international ones, she said.
Chapman Freeborn also advises on the best way oil and gas operations can be set up.
Petrobras, for example, needed helicopters able to cover 300km to its offshore pre-salt fields, which is beyond the range of many helicopters. Chapman Freeborn suggested setting up a hub part of the way offshore, so smaller helicopters could shuttle between the platforms and the hub.
Chapman Freeborn can also give advice about the nearest runway to your operations where you can land your cargo.
As an example, in Norway, the closest airports to the oil and gas activities in Snøvhit and Shtokman is Hammerfest airport, which has a 6025 feet runway, which limits the size of aircraft which can land on it to a De Havilland Dash 7 and Dash 8.
The runway can be closed for days due to strong winds. The next nearest airport, Alta, is 2 hours away by road, but can take an Antonov 12 aircraft, which can carry 20 tons of cargo. But there are limits to the weight of cargo which can be handled at Alta.
Bardufoss airport (South of Tromsø) has an 8,000 feet runway, which means an Antonov 124 can land, but there are limits in the weight it can carry.
The nearest airport which can take very large equipment is in Bodø, which is 17 hours trucking time away.
It is possible that the runway at Hammerfest could be increased, if the local government wanted to.
There have been examples of airports being extended just for oil and gas projects, in Papua New Guinea, when an airport was is being extended to be able to take larger aircraft for a LNG project.