Dominion Technology Gases (DTG) has hired one of the world\\$quot;s largest cargo aircraft to fly a US$750,000 consignment of diving gas to South Africa after being called in to help repair an offshore well.

The industrial cylinder gas company trucked the helium gas to Prague, Czech Republic, where it was loaded aboard a Russian-made Ilyushin IL76 aircraft and flown to South Africa.

Petro SA requested Dominion\\$quot;s help on a sub sea completion in the EM Field off Mossel Bay after a shear pin on a production tree penetrator apparently snapped during extraction, preventing the completion of the recovery.

The incident happened during a well workover forcing a halt to work until the penetrator had been removed.

Alan Thomas, managing director of contractors Cape Diving, said production was not directly affected, but the repairs were required urgently to end downtime on the rig and to prevent delays on the drilling program.

'We called in DTG because we needed a guaranteed quality of gas, service and supply that we could find nowhere else,'said Mr Thomas.

'The only way to resolve the problem is using manned intervention in a water depth of about 105 metres. The repairs will be carried out by actuating the penetrator manually from inside the ROV panel.

Dominion general manager Paul McAlister said the company had pulled out all the stops to meet the order, including hiring the Ilyushin aircraft at a cost of US$500,000. Dominion used its technological expertise to keep freight costs to a minimum, packaging the gas in high-pressure 300-bar cylinders contained in groups of 64 in specially designed lightweight frames, or \\$quot;˜quads\\$quot;

\\$quot;We believe the only way for small companies to compete against multinational rivals is by providing a service that\\$quot;s second to none, and that has put us in demand around the world,\\$quot; said Mr McAlister.

The IL76, which is powered by four turbofan engines and has a payload capacity of 150 tons, was first developed by the Russian military in the early 1970s. It has a range of more than 2,000 miles, but is forbidden from landing in many western European countries because of noise regulations.