New hyperbaric test facility announced to strengthen the UK’s subsea industry

Artist’s impression of the completed quayside development

Artist’s impression of the completed quayside development from the South bank of the Tyne (BEL Valves) Ltd
The new ‘Neptune’ technology centre development announced this month will deliver a long needed centre of excellence for hyperbaric testing in the UK.

Situated on the North bank of the River Tyne in Newcastle the facility will be jointly owned by BEL Valves and Newcastle University. Housing six hyperbaric chambers which simulate water depths down to 4,500m, the facility will provide a unique mix of commercially available test facilities and a national centre for training and research for the industry.

With the demise of ‘easy oil’ Operators, Vendors and Academics are now leading the way in developing technologies to shape the world’s energy future. The joint challenge faced is one of developing safe, environmentally and economically viable subsea solutions for the frontier oil and gas challenges including ultra-deep water. Development of these technologies requires commitment to R&D investment regardless of the changes to energy prices and earnings. Therefore good relations and close collaboration between vendors and academia is needed to ensure that the potential benefits of deep water systems for both the industry and global energy supply security are realised.

The hyperbaric facility is the latest development under the ‘Neptune’ banner in the North East of England, delivering superior test, research and development facilities for the North East of England and for the wider Subsea community in the UK.

Project lead Professor Nick Wright, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Newcastle University said ‘This new facility will complement the new Neptune National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering being led by the University.’

The creation of this unique facility has, in part, been thanks to funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership - Andrew Hodgson, vice chair of the Partnership and chair of Subsea NE, said: ‘The subsea sector is a vital part of the economic regeneration within the North East of England…our vision remains to make the North East the recognised centre for subsea technologies on an international scale.’ This is a vision re-affirmed in the ‘UK Oil and Gas Business and Government Action plan’ which was published earlier this year as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy which in turn was strongly supported by Oil and Gas UK.

The UK is already recognised as a leading technology hub for subsea engineering and with the introduction of these new, shared facilities, collaboration across operators, subsea system suppliers and supply chain companies will be encouraged further. This commitment to R&D will provide mutual benefits for the North East’s cluster of subsea businesses and for the wider oil and gas community, bolstering the UK’s research, training and test capabilities.

Neil Kirkbride, Chief Executive Officer, BEL Valves said: ‘There is a known bottleneck in the industry due to the lack of easily available, large diameter, high pressure hyperbaric facilities, a trend which is set to continue with the move to deeper waters & advanced subsea processing. This facility will improve our capabilities for research development and provide access for others in the subsea community to world class development facilities in a timely and cost effective manner.

‘We already have close links with Newcastle University, collaborating with them on many projects including development of our Engineers and this move will strengthen the training program for our skilled engineers whilst also addressing some of the key skills shortages currently faced by the UK Industry as a whole.’

Building work for the Neptune Test Centre is due to commence early in 2015 with staged commissioning of equipment to be completed by 2017.

BEL Valves Ltd
Tel: 0191 265 9091
Web: www.belvalves.comand

Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 32

Summer 2020 // Issue 53
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