Chevron shelves Wheatstone subsea fibre loop

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Chevron shelves Wheatstone subsea fibre loop

Scoped link fails to win foundation funds.

Chevron Australia has decided not to fund the rollout of a subsea fibre optic loop in the foundation phase of its $29 billion Wheatstone liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Western Australia.

The energy giant had mooted the rollout of the cable for Wheatstone in a draft environmental impact statement [pdf-20MB] prepared in July 2010.

"Chevron is currently investigating the options to provide a standard, reliable, integrated offshore telecommunications infrastructure," the company said in July last year.

"One of the proposed alternatives is a subsea fibre loop, part of which could be laid in the same corridor as the [LNG] trunkline."

However, a Chevron Australia spokesman told iTnews that the fibre project had been denied funds put up for the foundation phase as part of a final investment decision (FID) made in late September.

"As I understand it, there is currently no offshore subsea fibre network within the scope of the Wheatstone foundation project," the spokesman said.

Chevron had said last year that, if built, the subsea cable could be integrated with the nearby Gorgon LNG project, also operated by Chevron Australia, or with undisclosed "third-party operations".

Chevron scoped the use of subsea fibre on the Gorgon project prior to approving that project in 2009. The first phase of Gorgon was expected to cost about $43 billion.

The fate of other telecommunications investments expected to stem from the approval of Wheatstone remained unclear.

The draft environmental impact statement had noted that terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure upgrades could be necessary in and around the small town of Onslow, which is set to house all of Wheatstone's operational workforce.

Onslow is also 12 km from Chevron's onshore gas processing facility.

The town was granted a $250 million injection from Chevron to be spent on transport, living, recreational and other infrastructure, which could include an expansion of Telstra infrastructure.

Chevron noted in the impact draft that a desktop review of "key social services and infrastructure in Onslow" had previously been undertaken.

The review also examined "the capacity of these services to accommodate further population growth".

The study noted that the Telstra exchange in Onslow serviced about 500 PSTN connections and 150 ADSL2+ users.

There was also Next G mobile coverage that extended "approximately 5km from town for regular mobiles" - although it noted that Next G coverage could be attained 12km from Onslow using "better antennas".

The desktop review noted sufficient backhaul capacity connecting the Onslow exchange to the rest of the Telstra network.

However, it identified "issues of physical protection of the transmission link."

"The only connection is by the 80km fibre spur from the NW Coastal Highway," the review stated.

"There are no current plans to provide physical transmission diversity for Onslow".

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