Sunday, July 25, 2004

Photos from Thailand.

The introduction says it all. I finally got around to uploading some pictures from the Thailand part of my South East Asia trip. You can find them under the photo section of the website. (where else?) or click on the title of this epistle.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Back to Brisbane?

Looks like the landowner dispute is starting to throw a real spanner in the works with construction not commencing any time soon. I am therefore contemplating moving back to Brisbane as I can potentially be of more use there then I am out here at this point in time while still being able to deal with any  work related to North West Moran by email and phone. The problem of course is that he whole situation could change again in the next twenty four hours.

As an aside I start finding the long days wearying and am looking forward to being home next week and getting a few decent nights sleep. The last few days I have been awake every morning at four because of the traffic and general camp noise.

Monday, July 19, 2004


The landowner negotiations are going nowhere in a hurry and yesterday
one of the clans walked out of the meeting. So at the moment we are
taking a wait and see attitude but position wise we are miles apart. It
is difficult for the landowners to see the difference between the
benefits that come from the discovery of a new oil field, which was what
happened last time, and the construction of some pipelines to an
existing field, which is what we are doing now.
While everybody accepts that delays, unrealistic expectations and
stalled negotiations are the price of doing business in PNG it's
frustrating all the same. Also we can't wait forever and an exit
strategy must be considered if we can't make any headway.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Lake Kutubu

From various points around this area and when you are flying in you get good views of Lake Kutubu. Here is some information on it.

Lake Kutubu is the second largest lake in the country. It is at an elevation of 808 meters with an area of 4,924 ha and was Until recently one of the most inaccessible areas in the country, with access only by light aircraft or on foot. The lake was formed when ash and debris from a volcanic eruption blocked of a valley. It has a maximum depth of approximately seventy meters. The lake depth can vary up to 2 m between the maximum height of a wet period and the end of a dry period. Annual average temperature is 23°C and rainfall is 4,500 mm.

The lake is fringed by reed-dominated swamp, especially at the northern and southern ends and The site includes seasonally inundated flatland swamp forest. During a scuba survey, several submerged cave systems were found.

Southern Highlands Province was the last area to be penetrated by the Australian colonial administration. The administration's first outpost was established in 1939. Indigenous land use has changed little in the intervening 60 years, in this one of the most sparsely populated regions in the country. The Fasu people are spread widely to the west and southwest of the lake and own the land in which oil fields are located. Residents of the villages around the lake rely principally on the sago palm that provides 75% of their food volume (starch), as well as supplying building material. There is subsistence gardening, and hunting and fishing encampments. There have been several attempts to introduce cash crops, such as cocoa and coffee, but with little success thus far because of limited transportation. The development of oil and gas in the region has however, increased access through the development of road links and establishment of regular airplane flights.

(Most of this info comes from a website on wetlands preservation

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Nothing much happening

Today it looked for a while as if the weather was improving and it actually stopped raining for a few hours. I grabbed my camera and dashed off to take a few photos of the camp. Good thing that I did it straight away because now at three in the afternoon we are once again enveloped in cloud and a steady drizzle has set in. Work wise there is nothing to report really, just steady as she goes while we await the go ahead from the community affairs group to start construction, hopefully in the next week or so.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Welcome to the jungle.

Three of us went out for a trip along the road yesterday to have a look
through the Agogo processing facility and up to the drill pad where the
bush run of the line meets the road.
I think I have written about this before but just to reiterate, the
project is the construction of a set of pipelines from a wellhead in the
jungle to a processing facility at Agogo. The first seven kilometres,
the bush run, are through some very inhospitable jungle and everything
on that section needs to be flown in, men, equipment and materials. Then
from the end of the bush run to Agogo the lines follow the edge of a
dirt road, the road run, and finally there is the tie-ins and some
refurbishment of a separator vessel and the fabrication of a slug
catcher at the Agogo plant itself.

As I hadn't been out in the field yet I jumped on the opportunity to go
out and have a look. So we left the rain surrounding Ridge camp for the
mere drizzle of Agogo about half an hours drive away. On entering the
plant and checking in at the control room we got a quickie safety
briefing and were then left to our own devices. The plant is small by
most standards and the area where we have to bring in the line is mostly
clear although we will have to excavate a rocky outcrop to get enough
space for the slug catcher.

By the time we left the plant a small miracle had occurred, it stopped
raining! Now we went up the road looking for possible laydown areas for
the pipe and to check on the road crossings we will have to put in. The
road steadily goes up and it wasn't all that long before we were back in
the clouds but apart from the odd spot of rain it stayed pleasant enough
and after another hours drive we reached the end of the road and the
start for the bush run. There is a small camp up here for the drillers
and exploration crews that come by from time to time. It consists of
five or so portacoms a bush kitchen and a longhouse. The portacoms have
four or five rooms each, the longhouse sleeps about twenty and is
completely made out of bush material and plastic sheeting and looks like
something you'll normally expect to see in the slums of Bombay although
it's actually quite serviceable. The bush kitchen is a similar structure
as the longhouse but split in a kitchen and dining area and the kitchen
has all the stainless steel benches and appliances you would expect to
find in similar facilities around the world. As we are thinking about
possibly using this camp for some of our personnel we had a look around
to see what we might need to upgrade and change, mainly the toilet and
shower block, before we can move our people in.

When the cloud cover parts you can see the wellhead we have to start our
line from but in the hour or so we were up here it only cleared once for
two or three minutes. The scenery here is magnificent though with huge
trees and very dense foliage, from the camp you look into a gorge that's
at least five hundred meters deep and which we will have to go down in
before crossing two rivers and heading back up a ridge to the well head.
With the rain making everything slippery and the clouds making
helicopter support hazardous it will be one hardcore construction

On the way back we also called in to the area where we want to put our
main camp. Again this is located on a ridge and on a good day you look
down over Lake Kutubu of course there were clouds when we arrived but it
looks like an excellent spot with plenty of room all the same.

So that was that a Sunday well spend.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I have been here for almost a week now and it hasn't stopped raining
yet. Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it buckets down but it always
rains. The longest dry spell has definitely been no more then five
minutes. As a result everything is damp, including the clothing you put
on in the morning and the bed you climb into at night. If you suffer
from rheumatism this is not a good place to go.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Live on the Ridge.

Only three days and a number of things are already starting to become
routine. I get up at five and have a shower and shave before walking to
the mess hall for breakfast, eat my muesli and off to the office. As we
haven't established our project office yet we tend to grab what ever
desk space and computers we can. I have a lap top with me as well but
it's old and a pain to use as it can't interface with the network here.
We work from six in the morning to about six thirty or seven in the
evening, have dinner, watch some television and go to sleep. Rinse and
repeat for nineteen days and then have a weeks break.

The camp here is old, about twelve to fifteen years and the rooms show
that but it also has a comfortable lived in feel to it. Common areas
have plants and picnic tables, there is a covered basketball court and a
gym, the food in the mess hall is pleasant with a good choice but
because of our long work hours there is not much time I actually spend
using these facilities.

If you were wondering why the funny disclaimer appears on the bottom of
these messages, it's because internet access is seriously restricted
here and I post via the Email system. I will clean these up when I have
unrestricted access to the net again, probably on my breaks.

NOTE: This message may contain privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the addressee(s) named above.
If you are not the intended recipient(s) of this message you are hereby notified that you must not disseminate, copy or take any action in reliance on it.
If you received the message in error please notify the original sender immediately and delete the message and any attachments.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A comedy of errors.

There is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to arranging travel you are best off doing it yourself.
I got to the airport at 6.10 and attempted to check in for my flight to Cairns. The man behind the counter checked and rechecked and announced " sorry sir you are not booked on any flights today", sounds familiar? Yes it did to me too. I rang Anthony as I figured seeing I had to get up early he might as well too and informed him of the situation. I then hung around to see if any of the others would show up but no such luck.  So half an hour in the taxi and I was back at the office.
Just after venting my spleen about the travel coordinator and settling in for a days work the telephone went. Could I make the direct Brisbane - Port Moresby flight at 10.55. So back in a cab and off to the international terminal where it was total chaos with far more people then were ever going to fit on aircraft trying to check in. An airline employee went through the crowd asking who had onward connections to catch, those of us that did were checked in first, tough luck to every one else. Of course this being a code share flight with Air New Guinea this wasn't where the fun stopped. The departure time came and went and without any announcement whatsoever the departure was postponed by an hour and a half. I made some enquiries but didn't get much further then "technical problems". Ah well... the plane did actually leave an hour and a half later and three hours of a luckily smooth flight saw me disembarking at Port Moresby's new terminal.
Things started to look up. The new terminal is clean, air-conditioned and fairly spacious, it's no Changi but that is hardly necessary for a country like PNG. The next bit of good news was that they actually had held the charter to Moro for us, so only ten or fifteen minutes after our arrival we were on our way again and just on six o'clock we arrived at Ridge Camp my base for the next few weeks

Monday, July 05, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

Up the creek without a paddle.

Or more to the point without a flight. After getting up early and making
my way to the airport it turned out that Oil Search hadn't booked my
flights, just like the last time. May their travel coordinator suffer
flight delays and hotel cancellations where ever she goes. Anyway back
in the office now and trying to replan my day. I guess we'll try to
leave again tomorrow.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Off to PNG

Tomorrow morning (05/07/04) I am traveling to Papua New Guinea or at least I hope so.
Everything is set and ready to go but the travel arrangements are once again made by the same person that arranged my flights to Brisbane so things are fast and loose.
Again I have not received an itinerary and all I know is that I am supposed to catch a flight from here to Cairns tomorrow morning. No one bothered to inform me where to go from there. Now there is only one flight that goes to Port Moresby after my arrival in Cairns so it's an easy guess that I am on that one. But from there who knows. The good thing is a few of my colleagues are traveling as well so amongst the four of us we should be able to work it out. If not I know a reasonable hotel and some restaurants in Moresby.
If and when I get to site I expect to be out of communication for a few days, certainly no cell phones and email might be sketchy as well. So don't panic but do keep an eye on this blog for the latest info from PNG.

Photo update.

I have just added some photos of Brisbane to the photo gallery.