WHEN Fraser Hydraulic Power Ltd was established in 1986, its customer base included most of the North East’s coal mines, shipyards, 100 local manufacturers and other big engineering employers.
Since then FHP has had to reinvent itself many times to meet the sudden and sometimes dramatic demise in the UK manufacturing base.
However, the involvement with what was just one of those customers has led FHP to develop what is now a very much in-demand expertise – subsea cable-laying.
In the early 90s, BT Marine, the marine division of British Telecom, had a base on the Tyne.
In these early days FHP repaired and serviced their deck equipment.
This led to the designing, building, and installing of new cable-handling and laying equipment.
BT Marine became part of the much bigger Cable & Wireless and FHP’s newly-developed expertise was accepted, making exposure to a global market a reality.
The rapid improvement in electrical drives and controls saw the company make its way into what had been an exclusively hydraulic market.
This was a challenge FHP had to face, and in doing so it developed its own AC inverter drive systems using Mitsubishi and Siemens systems.
FHP’s well-established cable- handling expertise is now a big requirement in the development of offshore wind farms and with FHP’s background it was easy to make the technology transfer.
There are some distinct differences, the major ones being most of the cables are laid in relatively shallow water and also the cable handling varies, in that power cables have a resistance to being laid into static storage tanks.
This leads to the need for them to be laid on to rotating drums or rotating tanks, with continuous cable lengths of up to 65km and total weights up to 7,000 tons.
New rotating tanks were required and again FHP has taken up the challenge.
In summer 2010 FHP completed its first rotating tank (more commonly called a carousel).
The carousel has a laden weight of 7700 tons and there are only a few of this size available worldwide.
The FHP carousel recently loaded its first consignment of cable in Naples and should be busy in the foreseeable future, transporting and laying down cable to wind farms throughout Europe and perhaps the world.
Global Marine Systems is the owner – the more recent reincarnation of Cable & Wireless – which takes things full circle back to the 1990s and FHP’s service work beginnings.
In addition to building new equipment, FHP has also built up a substantial fleet of hire equipment for cable-laying. This area of FHP’s business is growing rapidly and is now a very significant revenue stream.
The hire equipment spans the world with recent hires in Northern Europe, the Middle East and currently in Iraq and Turkmenistan, and nearer home in the Orkneys and the southern North Sea.
This is very much a family company which continues to grow and has a policy of bringing young and talented people into engineering. Of the 31 staff there are three apprentices, all of whom have a bright future in an industry short on young talent.
The company is also proud to recognise that the recent 7,000-ton carousel was sourced and built using 95% North East fabricators, machine shops and suppliers.
This little corner of the world exercises a huge influence over the future of the offshore renewable market and FHP has the desire to be very much a part of it.
FHP offers rapid solutions to facilitate the progress of renewable worldwide:
Design and manufacture of special purpose linear cable engines.
Tracked cable engines.
Electric and hydraulic drive systems.
Cable drum engines.
Carousels from 55 tons to 7,000 tons.
Installation and commissioning.
Re-engineering to extend working life or utilise technology improvements.
Hire of cable-laying equipment with or without operators.
Manufacture and design of test rigs and special-purpose machines.