Lowestoft energy boss urges action to make region a decommissioning ‘centre of excellence’

10:00 22 August 2012

A platform being decommissioned in North Sea

A platform being decommissioned in North Sea

Charles Hodge Photography,Lowestoft, 01502 500272 ©Charles Hodge Photography

A leading energy industry boss is urging the government to slash red tape and back the East in its quest to become “a centre of excellence” in the decommissioning industry.

Martin Jolley, Managing Director of AKD Engineering.Picture: James BassMartin Jolley, Managing Director of AKD Engineering.Picture: James Bass

Martin Jolley, managing director at AKD Engineering, wants to cut back the time it takes to decommission an oil and gas platform to help the region harness a potential £8bn industry in the North Sea.

The plea comes as the company looks to become one of the first businesses in the world to offer a “one-stop shop” for retiring platforms through its new alliance with American company Tetra.

But Mr Jolley has warned that local businesses will need to show the world that they are leading the way in the industry, if they want to draw investment, and secure the “massive opportunity” to create hundreds of new jobs.

“We could become known as the decommissioning centre,” Mr Jolley said.

“Great Yarmouth outer harbour and Felixstowe port could play a major part in this programme.

“We could get firms relocating from all over the world to learn about the industry if we become a centre of excellence.

“We need support from the Department of Energy and Climate Change because when we decide to decommission a platform it can take up to two years, but in the Gulf of Mexico companies can do it in a month.

“Meanwhile, we also need to work with our local politicians to try and get local companies to show what the East has got to offer the decommissioning world.

“There could be a massive opportunity for employing hundreds of people here.

“I think the opportunity for the east coast of England is phenomenal, but you have got to have the will to do it.”

AKD Engineering, based at Horn Hill Lowestoft, decommissioned five gas platforms between 2008 and 2010 in the Shell Leman Field six miles off the Norfolk coast. The deal was worth approximately £12m.

Now, the company is working on a joint venture with Tetra, which has decommissioned more than 1,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

Together, they hope to capture the North Sea market by combining Tetra’s expertise of plugging wells below sea level, with AKD’s experience of disposing of platforms above water.

At present, the alliance has launched a bid to decommission four wells in the North Sea operated by the oil and gas production group, Tullow.

AKD, which employs 120 people and is forecasted to make £15m turnover this year, estimates that each North Sea decommissioning project is worth between £1m and £6m, with the potential of working on more than 500 platforms in the next 25 years.

Simon Gray, East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) chief executive, said the potential scale for decommissioning and recommissioning work in the East cannot be ignored. He said: “It’s not long since joint research by Deloitte and Douglas-Westwood suggested a £47.5bn business opening up in the North Sea.”

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  • “Great Yarmouth outer harbour and Felixstowe port could play a major part in this programme. >> Felixtowe maybe, but Yarmouth NO. There is no infrastructure what so ever at the outer disaster so no way could they handle it. Also just look at how much they charge per day for mooring fees (and the rip off charge) The management of the harbour know what I mean. >>> “We could get firms relocating from all over the world to learn about the industry if we become a centre of excellence. Once again, Lowestoft, Felixstowe yes, Yarmouth NO. No infrastructure, No space, no road system.

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    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

  • @point du jour - well put. Certainly the histories of various breaking jobs, including the subsequent Brent Spar saga, tell us that there are many important matters to be investigated or taken into account. For example, these things seem to be far more polluted than first thought, and breaking them either afloat or ashore releases all manner of things. We don't really want to cut corners and contaminate water, land and people in the interest of short term profit; and cleaning it up after usually costs a lot more, and that cost often magically transfers to the public purse from the private.

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    T Doff

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

  • @T Doff - Your points about known and 'unexpected' contaminants are important. On a more basic level much of the work must involve cutting up huge quantities ofin metal. This is an incredibly noisy industry to introduce to a town centre. I know we once had shipyards, but this would be on a very different scale - and would not provide employment for skilled trades in the same way.

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    point du jour

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

  • The word 'decommissioning' brought the image of the ship-breaking industry in Chittagong, Bangladesh (which was shown in a recent programme on BBC TV) to my mind. Yes, recycling is important but I suspect that the 'red tape' refers to environmental and possibly worker protection - which needs to be strengthened, not weakened. This kind of industry won't do much for Lowestoft's existing poor reputation. We need to be attracting modern, skilled, creative industries which can transform a potentially great place to live.

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    point du jour

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

  • It's not clear from the article exactly what "red tape" Mr. Jolley wants slashed, and whether it's justified or not. However, I don't think it would go down too well if East Coast ports ended up with decommissioning jobs as dangerous as the American asbestos-laden ships sent to Hartlepool for breaking, or as noxious as those in India. If not, then best of luck, and it would be good to see more of this stuff recycled rather than dumped at sea (as was attempted, and thwarted with the Brent Spar in the 90's).

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    T Doff

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

  • Nice to see the Mercury still allows criticism of Yarmouth and the outer disaster ? NOT

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    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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