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Energy services firm hopes to create business hub in Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 14:16 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:19 24 September 2018

Colin Stewart (far left) and Matthew Owen (far right), directors of energy services company Stowen, with staff at the company's machine shop in Lowestoft. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Colin Stewart (far left) and Matthew Owen (far right), directors of energy services company Stowen, with staff at the company's machine shop in Lowestoft. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Archant

An energy services company has put a £250,000 vote of confidence into a Lowestoft industrial estate where it hopes to create a new business hub.

Colin Stewart (left) and Matthew Owen, directors of energy services company Stowen, at the company's premises in Lowestoft. Picture: Bethany WhymarkColin Stewart (left) and Matthew Owen, directors of energy services company Stowen, at the company's premises in Lowestoft. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Stowen, which provides engineering, construction and inspection services to the energy industry, is expanding its offering after taking on the Polgain South machining unit at Horn Hill.

It follows the firm’s takeover of a fabrication unit at the site – which was occupied by AKD Engineering until 2015 – in November 2017.

The directors of Great Yarmouth-based Stowen plan to use the machining unit – which is equipped with bespoke machines for making and finishing large pieces of mechanical equipment – and fabrication unit to service any industry from oil and gas providers to food manufacturers.

Managing director Matthew Owen, who began his career as an apprentice in the AKD machine shop back in the 1990s, said the unit was “complementary” to the firm’s other services.

David Porter speaks to apprentice Matthew Owen on his visit to AKD Engineering in May 1993. Picture: Archant LibraryDavid Porter speaks to apprentice Matthew Owen on his visit to AKD Engineering in May 1993. Picture: Archant Library

He said “hundreds of thousands of pounds” could be spent on improving the site, with the potential to introduce new technologies and equipment.

“The opportunity to acquire it really fitted into our business plan to create a full turnkey solution. Certainly for the service companies here is it useful,” he said.

“Other local suppliers would have used AKD to get their machine work done, and our vision is to offer them fabrication and machining under one roof.”

There is also a plan to move Stowen’s headquarters from Great Yarmouth to a purpose-built office block at Horn Hill.

Mr Owen is keen to bring young talent into the company, with three apprentices from East Coast College in Lowestoft now working at the fabrication unit and two more apprentice roles being made available at the machining unit.

“Some technicians can have limited versatility. We wanted to go back to basics with the skill sets for the apprentices,” he said.

After being reliant on subcontractors at the start, Stowen has brought more services in-house including electrical and heat treatment services, and now fabrication and machining.

It has worked on offshore wind farms around East Anglia including Sheringham Shoal, Scroby Sands and East Anglia One.

The company has around 40 staff, but its workforce on a single offshore project can stretch to 100 with subcontractors.

Growing through adaptability

Stowen was founded as an energy services company in 2014 by Mr Owen and business partner Colin Stewart – but the business had to adapt to fast-changing market conditions.

When it was set up in October, oil had peaked at $130 a barrel – but was about to begin a decline that would bottom out at just $30 a barrel.

“But because we were new we were able to mould a company based on what the industry wanted,” said Mr Owen.

“There were not many companies in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft turning a profit in 2015/2016 but we did well.”

He added: “It is not the business we envisaged we would set up, it has been driven by demand from the industry.”

Stowen continues to diversify away from the oil and gas sector. Mr Owen expects work from that industry to account for 50% of Stowen’s turnover this year – predicted to hit £7.5m – down from 80-90% previously.

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