A Newcastle firm that invested £15m on expanding its facilities has secured a large contract in Asia that could set new standards in the subsea sector.
GE Oil & Gas, which makes pipelines and other products for oil and gas production, has been recruited by a major company – the name of which has not been disclosed – for large-scale work centred on the new technology of floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG).
FLNG involves extracting gas from depths of perhaps 200m below sea level, compressing it through liquification on a floating vessel and transporting it back to land to be reheated and converted to its original form.
The innovation, which represents an economic way to exploit the benefit of even small fields far offshore, requires large, high specification pipes, products GE is well placed to deliver, following a £15m investment on two 3,000 tonne storage carousels at its site on Walker Riverside.
The company’s expansion has also been boosted by an investment of £11m on research and development in the past two years and a recruitment drive that has seen 152 new employees come on board since December, bringing headcount at the site to nearly 600. “We have invested in the future,” said site leader Bruce Heppenstall.
“The subsea sector we are operating in is continuing to grow and new technology is continuing to be produced.
“There is a growing demand for that in Asia, for example. They are moving away from nuclear in Japan and its replacement will be natural gas.
“It’s the same in China, where they will have to import natural gas.”
He added that the firm had been producing flexible pipes since 1997, but that these could now be made on a much larger scale and for much higher pressure.
“We specialise in solving customers’ problems, so we’ve invested in what our customers have asked us for,” he said.
The new facilities were showcased to around 40 people last week at an official opening attended by MP for Newcastle East, Nick Brown, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Margaret Wood, various dignitaries, and suppliers and contractors involved in the development.
Throughout the morning, Heppenstall, along with GE President and UK & Ireland chief executive Mark Elborne, provided a tour of the plant.
Elborne said: “The global demand for energy is continually on the rise, with oil and gas developments becoming increasingly complex, challenging and expensive.
“New ways of thinking and the provision of ever-more advanced technologies are key considerations for those companies wishing to grow and secure their future in this innovative industry.
“This is another example of GE investment into the UK, which has already proven to be an important contributor to the local economy.”