INPEX and Shell have announced plans to invest in a significant new project to construct a subsea optical fibre cable system with the Nextgen Group, delivering critical infrastructure for the nation’s resources industry.

The subsea fibre optic cable system will provide the INPEX Ichthys Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Shell Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) projects located in the Browse Basin off North West Australia with access to high-speed data and voice communication services for the life of their operations.

Work will commence in May 2014 and is scheduled for completion in 2016.

The Prelude and Ichthys projects will contribute equally to the construction of the system, which the Nextgen Group will build, own and operate. The system will stretch approximately 2000 kilometres between Darwin and Port Hedland.

The subsea fibre optic cable system will provide superior reliability and quality when compared to other available communications solutions such as satellite links. The system will provide an initial design capacity of 3.2 Tbps and has the potential to scale well beyond that as technology matures.

Ichthys Project Managing Director Louis Bon said constructing subsea infrastructure of this kind for private customers on the mainland was an Australian first. “This is a great achievement for the Ichthys Project and an excellent example of what collaboration in the oil and gas industry can achieve,” Mr Bon said. “It means that both of these projects, far north of Port Hedland, will be connected to data centres thousands of kilometres away in Perth.”

Shell Prelude Asset Manager Jim Marshall said Prelude FLNG’s close proximity to Ichthys represented a significant opportunity for INPEX and Shell to achieve a better technical and commercial outcome. “The subsea cable will give us a highly reliable and stable high-speed voice and data service which is essential for effective and efficient operations at our future offshore facilities,” Mr Marshall said. “It means that workers at Shell and INPEX will have an ultra high speed communications link so they can stay in touch with their friends and families while working at offshore facilities. Our investment will also establish a valuable piece of infrastructure that has the capacity to support the development of future offshore resources in the Browse Basin.”

Nextgen CEO Peter McGrath said the project would provide essential support to Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry. It will also establish an alternative backhaul path to Perth supporting high capacity voice and data services on land. “As an Australian company we’re delighted to support two global leaders working in a sector that is the heartbeat of the national economy,” Mr McGrath said. “This project builds on our successful track record of delivering high speed communications links for businesses, government and other users in underserviced regional and remote markets,” he said.

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Damien Batey +61 428 036 806