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A CONSOLIDATION of charter services to offshore oil and gas operations has led to more than $20 million in savings for the companies involved.

Five years ago, five helicopters, perhaps half full, would take off from Karratha in the morning and head out to sea.

Different companies were chartering separate flights to deliver their employees to WA’s offshore oil and gas operations.

Now, Bristow Helicopters Australia operates and coordinates all services from Barrow Island airport, to operations currently including Thevenard and Varanus Islands, the Griffin venture, and the Ensco 56 MODU.

Bristow, the licensed aerodrome holder for the airport owned by ChevronTexaco – operators of the Barrow Island oil field – says the service has delivered identified savings of $22 million to companies in its first five years.

In this time almost 250,000 passengers have been carried over 43,000 sectors.

The WA offshore service – akin to what Bristow International does in many locations, including the North Sea – represents a significant portion of business for Bristow Helicopters Australia.

“The North West Shelf is quite dynamic at the moment. Barrow is a strategic location from which we can transfer personnel closer to their final destination, reducing flight times,” Bristow Helicopters Australia commercial manager Patrick Thirley said.

Bristow has recently renewed its contract with Integrated Aviation Services – a consortium comprising ChevronTexaco, BHP Billiton and Apache Energy – for three years, with a further two-year option.

Two weeks ago it commenced operations to the drilling ship, Jack Ryan, 95 nautical miles out from Barrow, and, in January, will commence services for AGIP, out to the FPSO, Four Vanguard, in the Woollybutt oil field, 28 nautical miles west of Barrow.

If the Gorgon partners get the go-ahead for gas processing on Barrow, services to and from the island are expected to increase significantly from 2005-06.

Service providers to Bristow’s Barrow Island operations include QantasLink, Karratha Flying Services and Great Western Aviation, with Bristow flying its own helicopters from Barrow.

Bristow also arranges all aviation transport for the companies from Perth or Karratha to Barrow Island, taking care of scheduling, passenger handling, security, and helicopter underwater training checks.

On early morning check-in at Perth airport, a Bristow employee will ensure no-one gets on a Barrow flight without authority, and notify any offshore facility for which an employee does not present at the flight desk.

Bristow maintains 14 full-time staff on Barrow Island.

The company also services all Woodside Energy flight operations out of Karratha and Darwin, and Santos operations from Karratha.

Out of Geraldton, it has recently concluded offshore Perth Basin helicopter support work for Apache.

It will be operating from Geraldton again, for Roc Oil, for offshore Perth Basin drilling commencing in January.

The Jack Ryan is drilling the appraisal well Jansz-2 for 50-50 partners ExxonMobil (operator) and ChevronTexaco.

The Woollybutt field partners are operator AGIP (65.00 per cent), ExxonMobil (20 per cent) and Tap Oil (15 per cent), and the Gorgon partners are ChevronTexaco (operator, 57 per cent), Shell (29 per cent) and ExxonMobil (14 per cent).

Woodside Energy general manager external affairs Erica Smyth said the WA resources industry had produced some of the best air services, on a population density basis, in remote and regional Australia, as it provided a regular base-load for services.

Last week, Skywest Airlines began charter jet services between Perth and Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond mine near Kununurra.

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