May 20 2013 Latest news:
Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Gapton Hall industrial estate in Great Yarmouth is a veritable rabbit’s warren of energy businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Even to many of those living in the town, removed from any immediate connection to the industry, there is a sense of not really knowing who is there, nor what it is many of the businesses do.
But one company is keen to shine a light on its achievements and activities and raise its profile both in the town and beyond.
Proserv currently operates over four sites in the town, employing 220 people. But it has outlined ambitious plans to grow the the business 20pc year and year and take up to 50 new staff.
The company’s mission statement is “ingenious simplicity” and among is activities are the manufacture and installation of subsea communications - or underwater broadband systems in layman’s terms - giving oil and gas extraction teams on land and at sea detailed information about what is happening thousands of metres below.
Its principal customers are the independent oil and gas companies such as Petrobas, who it is working with in Brazil, and it is also developing products to allow those businesses to extend the life of existing “brownfield” sites, which are seen as a crucial growth area.
Globally it employs more than 1,600 people based in 12 countries, and has a turnover of about $500m or £327m.
A clearly ambitious company, whose growth has been fuelled by acquisition, it also wants to put the town on the map with a new purpose-built centre of excellence.
The name on the door at its Yarmouth base in Edison Way is new, after Proserv bought the business, the subseas controls division of Weatherford, last year.
That deal was the latest in a series of global acquisitions for the Aberdeen-based business under the stewardship of New Zealander David Lamont, who became chief executive in 2011.
A charismatic presence, Mr Lamont is convinced that the Yarmouth operation is a perfect fit for the firm’s worldwide network of businesses
“Great Yarmouth has a phenomenal history in oil and gas,” he said. “A lot of people based here are involved in businesses that were started here and a lot of the technologies were first developed here.
“From the Great Yarmouth operation, we are moving equipment and selling it all over the world. It brings together a number of groups and it’s really focused on on the subsea control systems.
“We develop our own technology either to sell products or use our technology to provide services to oil and gas companies both in the North Sea and every part of the world,” Mr Lamont explained. “We work in every major oil and gas province in the world. We focus on production both in terms of greenfield developments and enhancing the lifecycle of fields.”
And the company is pressing ahead with plans to find a new home and bring the entire operation under one roof, looking at a new purpose-built site at Beacon Park in Gorleston.
“The business is based on the people we have that’s why this operation is so important to us,” Mr Lamont said.
“One of the medium term plans is that we will expand and move into one facility. That’s going to be designed and these plans are underway. We are also looking at a centre of excellence here for our global operation.
“Having that centre of excellence for our global operations at Great Yarmouth is recognition of what we see as the talent and resource here.
“The values of the company are extremely important - the technology is great, but it wouldn’t have worked without the people.
“One of the developments that’s quite unique here is upgrading existing facilities. We are looking at even bigger projects where we are effectively extending the life of offshore fields and upgrading the communications and power systems.
“The subsea technology and communications we can provide is market leading and opens up so many opportunities for the operator - not just in extending the life of a field but also in getting the data back from the subsea so that they can improve their production .
“They can bring their wells online early before they have got the full infrastructure in place, so that they can start earning money, and the early production system can move from place to place.
“All of that was developed here and the equipment and mainframe computers can be fully operational at the level required up to 3,000metres.
“The control of a live well 3km down is absolutely crucial,” he added. “You have to know exactly what’s going on. These systems control the flow from oil well, record the data and bring it to the surface.
“It’s really state of the art technology, but it’s incredibly reliable and robust.
“There are greater technological challenges, but there are also emerging technologies. We are looking at applying that to improve the oil fields.”
“Based on the research and development that’s going on, there will be a much broader product portfolio here, not just in the Southern North Sea, but definitely in Europe and across Africa.”
With large scale plans for the development of offshore wind set to take place off the Norfolk and Suffolk and coastline, it is tempting to think that as resources dwindle, the end could be nigh for oil and gas.
But Mr Lamont is also adamant that there is plenty of life left yet in the oil and gas sector.
“People have perceptions about oil and gas,” he admitted. “But it’s a fantastic business, and it’s a fantastic career. A lot of people believe, inaccurately, that oil and gas is dying. Global reliance on hydro-carbons is going to be here for the next 100 years. I am absolutely sure that those starting their careers today will retire in the oil and gas business - and probably their children will as well.
“Oil and gas is extremely busy,” he explained. “Within oil and gas sector, subsea is growing and this business is right at the centre of that.”
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