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Fourth generation engineer targets growth
6:01am Wednesday 11th June 2014 in Business
A 111-YEAR-OLD family engineering firm is targeting new markets after strengthening its international presence with major energy contracts.
Francis Brown Limited, in Stockton, has provided services for flagship projects in Australia and Norway.
The fourth generation company carried out specialist submerged arc welding for subsea connectors.
The equipment is now onboard a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, which is on route to the Ichthys liquefied natural gas project, in Western Australia.
The firm, founded as a wire trap and soil sieve shop by construction worker Francis Brown in 1903, worked alongside Ashington-based Flexible Engineered Solutions on the contract.
It also supplied turnpoints for Reef Subsea, in Norway, to identify underwater routes for cabling, sent subsea templates to Aberdeen’s Schoolhill Hydraulic Engineering, which are used in drilling, and worked on support platforms for Hartlepool’s Heerema, which is making topsides for the North Sea Cygnus gas field.
Jamie Brown, managing director, told The Northern Echo he was delighted with its successes.
He said: “The Ichthys work was pleasing because it was two North-East companies working on a highly international project.
“That welding is something that others don’t have, and once clients know we have that ability, it puts us at an advantage.
“The specifications were demanding, but it’s what we specialise in.
“There were a number of components, which added to the challenge, but we control all of the processes and ensure the highest quality.”
Mr Brown said he hoped to use the projects as a platform to target work in the shale gas and tidal energy sectors.
The company, which employs about 80 workers, previously made a section of the world’s largest tidal turbine, deployed in the Orkneys.
It also manufactured the wave hub of a subsea socket, off the Cornish coast, which allows firms to plug in equipment and send energy onshore.
He said: “The sector is doing well and we expect it to continue it that vein.
“There are opportunities in shale gas.
“We have a wealth of experience in oil and gas, which we could transfer to that side of things.
“But we also have experience in renewables, having worked on the wave hub.
“There is a lot of new innovation and there will be a bit of jostling for position.”
The company also makes winches for remote-operated vehicles (ROVs), which are used to lay high-voltage underwater cables on offshore wind projects.
Last year, it built launch and recovery machinery for ROV maker Soil Machine Dynamics, in Wallsend, near Newcastle, which was sent to Brazil.
It also makes pressure vessels and incinerators for chemical firms and sump tanks for laboratory modules in the oil and gas industries, previously working on the Knarr field, in the Norwegian North Sea, which is estimated to contain about 55 million barrels of oil.