THE owner of a former Tyneside shipyard is preparing to invest £50m in converting part of the site into a facility to make wind turbine foundations – creating hundreds of jobs.
OGN Group is already using a section of Hadrian Yard in Wallsend to build an oil production platform for American firm Apache, a deal which is worth £150m and has seen around 700 workers brought into the site. It now wants to build a facility on-site for the construction of jacket foundations for offshore wind turbines. The 36,000-square metre facility could be completed as early as 2013, and chief technical officer Graham Kennedy said it could potentially provide “in excess of 600 jobs”.
“The bottom line is that we’re going to be a mass production facility for these jackets, and it’s for that reason that we’re hoping to be undergoing this redevelopment”, he said.
“We’re not just chasing UK contracts, we’re going after the Dutch, Belgian and German sectors as well. There’s only really one yard that’s been working along these lines and that’s in Scotland, and if there’s about 600 or 700 of these to be made per year, it’s not like any one company is going to get the lot.”
Plans for the project are likely to be submitted to North Tyneside Council in the new year, and the company is hoping to get the plan through the entire planning process before Easter. Mr Kennedy said: “We have a lot of work to do on the yard, including new foundations, building the shed and fitting it out with specialist equipment.
“This will be running 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and will be set up with three production lines running in parallel.”
Elsewhere on the yard, the company’s work on the Apache contract is progressing, with the structure due to be ready for transportation in July next year.
Mr Kennedy said OGN has already been talking to companies about potential new contracts to replace the Apache work when finished, and the site was recently visited by a UK operator as part of a discussion about “a job of a similar size or maybe a little bigger”.
He said: “We’re busy chasing other ones and we’ve got inquiries coming in.
“We’re going to have a mixed portfolio. Originally we thought of switching over to renewables entirely. We set off with that plan two years ago but changed our mind. There’s good work out there for oil and gas.
“Right now we’re tendering for all sorts of projects, not just Apache size. It’s re-emphasising what the yard can do. It saw a lot of offshore structures in years gone by, and this says there’s life in the place yet.”
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