EXXONMOBIL’S Komo airfield, built during the development phase of the PNG LNG project, will be made available for commercial and disaster relief operations, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has announced.

The heads of agreement signed by the supermajor and the PNG government will make the airfield available on a case-by-case basis.

All operational costs will be borne by the commercial or military user.

The Komo airfield currently operates as a private airfield for the PNG LNG project and will remain owned and operated by ExxonMobil.

It is recognised that space at the airfield is limited with the sealed apron able to accommodate up to two Dash 8-100 series aircraft simultaneously, or one larger aircraft up to the size of a Lockheed Hercules L382 or Boeing 747 at any one time.

ExxonMobil will continue to own and operate the Komo airfield, and according to the agreement, is open to additional support facilities being constructed outside the current grounds of the airfield.

The airfield’s runway is 3,200 metres long, compared to the 2,750 metre runway at Port Moresby’s Jacksons Airport.

While it meets all International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and PNG Civil Aviation Safety Authority rules and regulations, the project terminal is only equipped to handle the requirements of the PNG LNG project.

As a result, all facilities apart from the runway will be expanded to accommodate commercial operations, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said.

“There is further opportunity for businesspeople in the region to utilise the airport to get their produce to other centres around Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“People in Hela Province and through the Highlands region will benefit from this agreement through increased business opportunities and greater peace of mind when faced with potential natural disasters.”

Mr O’Neill said Komo was a strategic location for the delivery of relief supplies in the Highlands during times of flood or drought.

“Military and relief agencies will be able to factor Komo into their future planning as a potential distribution point to assist people in surrounding areas,” he said.