The people behind the Ensign project off Norfolk

For drilling supervisor John Knowles on the NJR drilling rig the exciting part of projects such as Ensign is the team work.

'What I find exciting is meeting the various engineers from different sectors and interfacing on a variety of activities from driving support vessels to the geologist and the drillers,' he said.

'Sometimes you take it as a natural thing as it is what you do all the time. When we are here it is a small community. There are people that do the beds and people that do scaffolding. There are people from all walks of life that work here.

'There is a wide specturm of people, but without them it wouldn't work. There aren't just people that drill.'

He said that while there were national and international companies involved in the project and many of the offshore workers are not local, there were many people employed from the local area involved in the project.

'Supply boats come two or three times a week. It is the infrastructure to support offshore,' he said.

In January the NJR spent three months in Great Yarmouth between jobs while maintenance was carried out.

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With its 90 workers and a further 20 to 40 onshore the knock on affect for the local area would have been significant.

Martin Lock, 41, from Akefield in Lowesoft, has been working on the Noble Julie Robinson rig in solids control.

His father was a Lowestoft man who worked as a deep sea fisherman. Mr Lock's first job offshore was when he was 18 years old working for Duffy & McGoverns on the Shell Clipper project in 1988.

While he took time out from the energy industry, he has returned.

'I went into the pub game. It was hard work. A lot harder than this,' he said. When he started many people gave gas production in the Southern North Sea only 20 to 30 years.

'The drilling is still going. I do not feel it is different,' he said. 'The work is still here if you want it. I think this will carry on. There seems to be a lot of work coming up. There are a lot of contracts coming up here and everywhere.'

But he said the nature of living on a rig was different. The rig now even has an wireless internet.

He said: 'Years ago people used to get together and watch films, now you do not often see the guys you work with until the following day. 'That is the way it has become with laptops. It used to be just a phone call, but now everything is done by iPhone. It is good because you don't seem so far away from your loved ones.'

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