A UK first in sub-sea engineering is planned for the bank of the River Tyne as part of a multi-million pound regeneration deal.
Newcastle-based British Engines says the £10m world-leading Neptune Test Centre, proposed for the derelict Spillers Tyne Mill site on Newcastle’s Quayside, will act as a catalyst for jobs in the North East oil and gas sector.
The centre of excellence, if approved by Newcastle City Council, will house four hyperbaric chambers that simulate the environment of subsea depths up to 4,500m.
It would be the first commercial facility of its kind in the world, with there being only two other rival test sites owned by the US and Russian governments.
Work on the facilities, backed by Newcastle University and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, could start as soon as early 2015, with the help of £5m Regional Growth Fund cash.
Two of the sub-sea chambers - 4.5 metres long and 2.5 metre in diameter - would be owned by BEL Valves and the third by Newcastle University.
Academics would use the site for research and manufacturers of sub-sea components would also want to use the valves.
Richard Dodd, chief operating officer of British Engines, said: “There is a known bottleneck in the industry due to the lack of easily available, large diameter, high pressure hyperbaric facilities, which is only being exacerbated as oil and gas developments move into deeper waters and more high pressure environments. Our business, BEL Valves, has certainly experienced this in trying to gain access to facilities in a timely and cost effective way.
“We already have close links with Newcastle University, collaborating with them on many projects, as well as developing our future engineers. This facility will improve our research and development capability, allowing us to continue developing world-first technology from the north east and further strengthen our links with the university.”
Professor Nick Wright, pro-vice-chancellor for research and innovation at Newcastle University, said: “This new facility will complement the new Neptune National Centre for Sub-sea and Offshore Engineering being led by the University.”
“This is an incredibly exciting project - bringing together industry and academia to create a unique facility that will significantly enhance research capacity, providing crucial infrastructure for emerging research opportunities. It will also provide a unique training ground for highly skilled graduates, addressing key skill shortages currently faced by UK industry.”
Helen Golightly, at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted to have been able to support this significant development. Investing in new world class and unique facilities such as the hyperbaric testing facilities is essential and firmly puts the North East on the global map.
“The announcement is a huge boost to the oil and gas sector in particular - the centre will be key to attracting investment from new and existing businesses into the area, helping to deliver more and better jobs.”
The Neptune Test Centre could be complete in mid-2015, with the large deep water chamber being installed mid-2016. As well as the testing facilities the centre will also house dedicated research and development offices for the university, training rooms, conference rooms and visitor facilities such as break out rooms and a canteen.
Alex Lamb, chairman of British Engines, added: “This world-leading project could not have happened without the support of the various local authorities, agencies and the university. British Engines is excited to see the project come to fruition and we’d like to thank everyone involved for having the confidence in a visionary project from the start.”