North East firms attend Pilot Share Fair energy event in Aberdeen

Almost three dozen North East firms are in Aberdeen today talking to some of the world’s leading oil companies with contracts worth several hundred million pounds up for grabs. Peter McCusker reports.

This year's Pilot Share Fair event in Aberdeen promises to be the biggest yet
This year's Pilot Share Fair event in Aberdeen promises to be the biggest yet

This year’s Pilot Share Fair event in Aberdeen promises to be the biggest yet as a surge of new investment in the North Sea will take expenditure to a record £13.5bn this year.

This coupled with an expected £100bn-plus global offshore investment over the next few years present huge opportunities for the region’s world-renowned supply chain.

Organised by Oil & Gas UK it says over 30 North East firms are attending Pilot. Also in attendance will be representatives from Durham-based national membership body NOF Energy.

Taking place at Aberdeen’s Exhibition and Conference Centre, Pilot brings together the industry’s major purchasers with the contractors and suppliers, attracting more than 1,000 delegates from throughout the UK and beyond.

Representatives from 13 major operators and contractors, including Shell, Total, Chinese oil firm Nexen, BP and Wood Group PSN, will be presenting while North East firms include suppliers of hydraulic solutions, subsea cable-laying specialists, valve manufacturers and providers of engineering and project management services.

Wilton Engineering Group from Teesside, a leader in design, fabrication and construction services to the oil, gas and energy industry, is one of those from the region in attendance.

In 2010 it won The Journal/Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 Awards and its chief executive officer Bill Scott was recognised as the North East Business Executive of the year in 2011 and North East Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012.

Scott said: “We have been going to this event for many years. It’s an excellent opportunity for one-to-ones with some of the industry’s senior decision makers. With the people who are at the top of the tree in some of the leading global operators.

“You have a few minutes to make your pitch, and that can be the start of a process which could prove to be a major benefit to your business. The conversation which starts at Pilot may then take a year or even up to 18 months to materialise into a contract.

“Over the years this has been one of the most important dates in our calendar.”

Mike Saxon, a consultant at Alnwick-based Delta-P Associates, which specialises in improving business communication between groups and organisations, said: “We find the Share Fair provides a very useful barometer of activity levels in the oil and gas sector.

“It also highlights opportunities for Delta-P to assist organisations to get more value from improving efficiency in their supply chain processes.”

Also in attendance is Blyth-based boat builders Alnmaritec.

The company develops customised designs for an extensive variety of applications including, pilot and patrol boats, dive support boats, hose and line handling tugs, wind farm service vessels, and oil spill response boats.

Martin Robinson sales and marketing manager at Alnmaritec, said: “The event is a chance to learn about future plans for the North Sea – and the companies working in it – and identify potential opportunities for Alnmaritec.

“Meeting all in one day at one location makes sense for us from a travel, time and cost perspective.

“Learning of future developments early and ‘from source’ enables us to effectively identify both new targets, and opportunities from within our existing client base.

“We are a company which specialises in the design and build of aluminium alloy workboats for operators across a wide range of industries.

“These boats cover a number of industries, and are located all over the world, but we are constantly looking at new geographies and partners to help us in those markets

“In the oil and gas market we have seen growth in overseas markets such as West Africa; however we do have a growing presence in the North Sea and are close to completing a new dive support workboat for a diving services contractor operating in the North Sea.”

Oonagh Werngren, Oil & Gas UK’s operations director, said: “Significant opportunities exist on the UK continental shelf thanks to positive engagement between the Government and the industry aimed at maximising economic recovery of the nation’s oil and gas reserves.

“This year total investment in oil and gas production is expected to reach an all-time record of £13.5bn and advance information on the projects involved will be shared by major players at Share Fair.

“Oilfield service companies will also benefit from the invaluable opportunity to engage with key procurement contacts on an individual basis during one-to-one sessions.

“Oil & Gas UK’s event has attracted considerable interest from the North East with around 30 diverse supply chain companies travelling north to Aberdeen to hear about the business opportunities presented by Britain’s booming oil and gas sector.”

Pilot Share Fair was started in 2007 and has played an increasingly prominent role in the industry over the last seven years.

A pitch made at one recent Pilot event saw the Wilton Engineering Group win a contract worth several millions of pounds with international integrated energy company, ConocoPhillips.

In 2011 Wilton announced it had secured a contract to fabricate a Long Term Compression (LTC) module for the Britannia field which created 250 new jobs on Teesside.

The team at Wilton delivered the 2,200-tonne LTC module earlier this year. It is 30 metres long, 29 metres high and 18 metres wide and accommodates one of the largest compressors in the North Sea.

This will extend the life of the Britannia gas field and enhance production from existing wells. Britannia, situated around 130 miles north east of Aberdeen, is one of the largest natural gas and condensate fields in the North Sea.

The original main platform was built at the Wilton Group’s Port Clarence facility in 1995 and Britannia began commercial production began in 1998.

Scott said: “This was a significant contract for the company and all started from an initial conversation at Pilot.”

He continued: “As well as being a great platform to help secure new work Pilot is also a great networking opportunity and provides a detailed source of knowledge of the future projects coming through the pipeline at the major oil companies.”

Charlie Sullivan, technical sales manager at the Wilton Engineering Group explained that supply companies are allowed three one-to-ones and that by the start of last week there were no interview spots remaining.

He said one of Wilton’s meetings today will be with existing client, French oil major Technip.

Sullivan said: “We will be looking for opportunities for design-based projects as well as using this as an opportunity to promote the full capabilities of Wilton including engineering design, fabrication, coating and site services.

“This is a very important date in the calendar. We are ideally placed to service the north and southern North Sea so by finding out what projects are being awarded we can target the ones that are the best fit for us, and where we can be the most competitive.”

Wilton is also looking at the decommissioning market and recently secured a contract to construct a 40 sq m lifting frame to remove an 8,000 tonne jacket from the North Sea.

Of the £502bn spent in the North Sea so far only £2bn of that has been spent on decommissioning.

The potential opportunities in this emerging decommissioning industry are huge, as a recent report by decommissioning body Decom North Sea outlines. It forecasts spending on decommissioning to total £35bn by 2040, providing huge supply chain opportunities and the potential to create and sustain over 35,000 so-called ‘brown jobs’.

There are now some 450 offshore platforms in UK waters, with a further 150-plus off Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark. Binding international conventions stipulate that almost all of these 600 or so offshore oil rigs and platforms and their associated subsea infrastructure must eventually be removed.

Sullivan added: “At the moment this is a niche market but it has enormous potential and we aim to establish our presence in this sector from the outset.”

William McWilliam, procurement lead for engineering services giant Amec, which has a substantial presence in the North East, said: “Pilot gives us a chance to let our supply chain know what we are doing and showcase the projects we are working on. It also gives us an opportunity to see what our supply chain is up to.”

George Rafferty, chief executive of NOF Energy, said: “With the UK Continental Shelf receiving record investment, this event is of particular benefit to our members who will be among the first to be informed of the latest business development opportunities in the UK oil and gas sector.

“Our members are very well-suited to provide the high quality services across the sector, so we are confident that the 18 month forward plans being outlined will be a source of opportunities.”

“Also, the networking opportunities an event such as this provides are vital to our members and relationships can be formed that may well prove very beneficial in the future, when it is time to act upon the declared intentions made by major companies at the fair.”

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