Falling oil prices and rising costs are putting pressure on companies operating in the North Sea, but there are still plenty of opportunities for advanced manufacturers in the Sheffield region.
Experts at a seminar at the AMRC, by the National Metals Technology Centre, said demand will continue to grow. Fracking in the US is creating demand for new materials and people with the skills to work them.
New steels are needed to increase the life of equipment required to reach deeper and deeper deposits under the sea and the development of greenhouse gas-reducing power station technologies like carbon capture and storage is also creating opportunities for special materials as well as existing steels. Some will go into the processing plant, others into the pipelines that will transport the CO2 to under sea storage.
With an advanced Oxyfuel CCS power station to be built at Drax there are, the seminar heard, opportunities opening up on our doorstep.
Tougher steel also requires greater machining expertise and opportunities for companies that can do it while meeting the quality, safety and traceability standards energy industries require.
There are also opportunities for steelmakers to find ways of pushing less complex grades so they can provide a cheaper alternative in some applications. Of course, the North Sea isn’t finished yet. Around a third of the reserves are still to be extracted.
As John Duffy, from Sheffield Forgemasters’ subsidiary, Vulcan SFM, told the seminar, the offshore subsea market is truly global.
While Vulcan SFM supplies large castings and forgings, there are also opportunities for fabricators, materials suppliers, manufacturers of flanges and fasteners, welding services and supplies, coating and painting services and inspection and testing companies.