A major investment in state-of-the art equipment has seen over 150 jobs created at a Newcastle firm.
GE Oil & Gas, which makes pipelines and other products for subsea oil and gas production, spent £15m – a fifth of which came through support from the Regional Growth Fund – on two storage carousels at its site on Walker Riverside.
Each weighing 3,000 tonnes and measuring 26m in diameter, the carousels will help to meet demand for the growing number developments worldwide that need bigger pipes for higher pressure wells.
To support the expansion, GE also has spent more than £11m in the past two years on research and development and has taken on 152 new employees since December, bringing headcount at the site to nearly 600.
The new facilities were showcased to around 40 people this week at an official opening attended by MP for Newcastle East, Nick Brown, Lord Mayor of Newcastle Margaret Wood, various dignitaries, and suppliers and contractors involved in the development.
Throughout the morning, GE President and UK & Ireland chief executive Mark Elborne, along with Newcastle site leader Bruce Heppenstall, provided a tour of the plant.
Mr 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, through the creation of new jobs across the region and which will contribute to the UK’s growing exports.”
Mr Brown added: “The manufacturing industry plays a critical role in this country, underpinning our economic activity.
“We have a long history of manufacturing in the North East and, as a region, have made a name for ourselves as being at the forefront of technological advancement.
“The expansion project that has recently taken place at GE Oil & Gas’ Newcastle facility is a prime example of this and I am delighted to have been able to have been a part of this celebratory event, an enjoyable and informative day.”
The firm, which acquired Wellstream International Ltd in 2011, also employs over 200 people at its facility in Cramlington, has a thriving apprenticeships programme and has recently invested in an innovation centre where it will consolidate its research and development.
It maintains a close relationship with educational establishments in the North East, helping promote STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Work to install the new machinery at the Walker site began in January 2013, reaching completion in October.
Mr Heppenstall said: “The latest developments have received the support of both the Government and local government in the region.
“We compete mainly against firms in France and Denmark and around 80% of what we do here is exported outside the UK.
“We have been producing high specification pipes here since 1997, but now can manufacture them with a much bigger diameter and for much higher pressure. This has significantly increased our storage, our manufacturing capacity and our flexibility.”