WITH the Prelude project on track for first gas in 2016, Shell has increased its search and rescue capabilities in Broome, launching a dedicated search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service to support the offshore oil and gas industry in the Kimberley.

What is being touted by the company as the first of its kind, the EC225 SAR helicopter will be based at the Broome International Airport and operated by CHC.

Shell said the dedicated service would be supported by a dedicated team of highly trained pilots, paramedics, engineers and crew.

The service is on standby 24-hours a day and is able to respond within 15 minutes during daylight hours and 30 minutes at night. The aircraft has a range of 300 nautical miles from the Broome airport.

Shell Australia country chair Andrew Smith said its activity offshore in the region was increasing as a result of the Prelude floating liquefied natural gas project.

“This combined medevac and search and rescue service ensures we are ready to respond to an incident quickly,” Mr Smith said.

“Both Shell and CHC see this service as a key part of the growing oil and gas industry in this region and we hope to welcome new industry partners to the service soon.”

CHC Asia Pacific’s regional director Nick Mair said the service would expand when a new helicopter is put into service in 2015.

“The aircraft currently stationed in Broome is able to undertake SAR activities in the day, and can be used for medevac at night,” he said.

“Early next year, a new, state-of -the- art, all-weather SAR helicopter will enable full, 24-hour search and rescue coverage.”

During times when the service is not required for oil and gas activities, it may be tasked by authorities to assist with medevac and search and rescue needs in the region.

Medical Rescue Air Ambulance will provide the paramedic SAR crew for the service. Shell did not disclose the value of the new search and rescue service.