February’s top 10 engineering contract wins

Each month The Engineer picks 10 of the most notable contract news stories from our Business Briefs archive. This month’s selection sees big brands of the automotive and aerospace industries grabbing the business world’s attention. The energy sector, including power from renewable as well as finite sources, has seen much activity both in the UK and on an international scale.

With green technology a leading topic, one of the most interesting stories last month was that of battery manufacturer Saft being contracted to supply renewable energy storage for an eco-housing project in California. The development in question, 2500 R Street, is a micro-grid distributed-energy community-housing project being developed by non-profit company Pacific Housing.

This 34-house complex will use the latest in smart grid, solar generation and energy storage to ensure each household generates as much clean energy as it uses, thus maximising homeowner utility-bill savings. The buildings are designed to meet stringent energy-efficiency guidelines, reducing resource use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and also offer an expedited construction schedule with emphasis on reducing construction waste. Each house will utilise Sunverge Energy’s Solar Integration System (SIS), with energy storage from Saft, to shift electrical loads, flatten peak electricity demand and maximise return on renewable energy investments.

Contracts signed in the UK demonstrated further progression in the utilisation of renewable resources, with E.ON winning the exclusive right to explore the potential for new wind-energy projects on two lots of land owned by the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS). E.ON estimates that the two lots, located in the north and west of Scotland, have the potential to generate around 500MW, or enough renewable electricity to power more than 270,000 homes annually, based on an average annual domestic household consumption of 4,700kWh.

The German power company will now begin detailed assessments of the land in order to understand its potential before submitting proposals to the commission and considering the submission of planning applications. FCS will be an active partner in any proposed developments.

On the other hand, February also saw British Gas’s parent company Centrica lay claim to a major source of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a fossil fuel, in Qatar. Centrica entered into an agreement for a three-year contract with Qatargas to deliver 2.4 million tonnes per annum of LNG to its Isle of Grain facility in Kent.

The deal will provide enough gas to meet approximately 10 per cent of UK annual residential gas demand, which is enough to meet the needs of around 2.5 million households. Centrica stated that Qatar, which has the world’s third-largest gas reserves, is set to become an increasingly important source of gas supply for the UK, having supplied 15 per cent of the country’s total gas demand in 2010. The company added that, by 2025, LNG is expected to account for around 50 per cent of UK total supply.

LNG fields currently in development off the coast of Australia produced another notable contract. Fluor Offshore Solutions, based in Texas, US, was awarded a front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract by Woodside, Australia’s largest oil exploration and production company, for the Browse LNG Development.

The Browse fields are located in the Browse Basin, about 42km north of Broome, off the western coast of Australia. Fluor will be responsible for FEED services for the offshore central gas-processing facility, including the steel jackets, a compression platform and a utilities accommodation platform. To design the steel jackets and float-over installation outlined in the contract, the company has teamed up with McDermott International.

Meanwhile, Finnish engineering and technology company Metso won a €30m (£19m) contract involving gas of a greener kind. The company agreed to supply a gasifier to sustain new gasification technology to Göteborg Energi’s project, Gothenburg Biomass Gasification (GoBiGas20MW), which is focused on producing biogas by gasification of biofuels and waste from forestry.

A gasification demo plant, to be built in two stages to demonstrate the concept’s technology, is scheduled to be operational in early 2013. On a commercial scale, the final plant will have a capacity of approximately 100MW biogas with an operating period of 8,000 hours per year.

February has also seen some of the world’s largest automotive companies getting involved in green technology with BMW and PSA Peugeot Citroën establishing an equal joint venture to develop standard hybrid components for the electrification of their vehicles.

The project, entitled BMW Peugeot Citroën Electrification, will focus on developing and producing hybrid components, including battery packs, E-machines, generators, power electronics and chargers, while also developing software for hybrid systems. Subject to approval by the relevant competition authorities, the joint venture is expected to launch its operations in the second quarter of 2011. The new hybrid components will equip both partners’ vehicles from 2014 onwards.

Another notable collaboration in the automotive sector was formed between Jaguar Land Rover and software developer Dassault Systèmes. The strategic partnership agreement will see advanced digital 3D simulation and development tools transform Jaguar Land Rover’s product development processes.

Jaguar Land Rover will deploy Dassault Systèmes’ V6 software for Product Lifecycle Management, the process that drives and controls all vehicle-creation processes, to increase operational efficiency and reduce complexity. Dassault Systèmes was chosen by Jaguar Land Rover following an 18-month evaluation period that included a full analysis of the Process, Method, Tools, Information (PMTI) environment at Jaguar Land Rover.

The aerospace sector has seen a number of large orders being placed, with one of the most notable coming from South African Airways, for six A330-200 Airbus aircraft. Seating 36 passengers in business class and 186 in economy, the aircraft will feature in-flight entertainment and be used primarily on long-haul routes from the airline’s bases in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The A330 will join South African Airlines’ existing Airbus fleet of 11 A319s, 14 A340-200/300s and nine A340-600s, enabling the airline to take advantage of Airbus’ cockpit and operational commonality.

In the UK, a subsidiary of Marshall Aerospace was awarded a third successive order from BAE Systems Rochester to manufacture additional Eurofighter Aircraft (EFA) helmets by the close of 2014. Marshall Slingsby Advanced Composites has been designing and manufacturing inner and outer helmets for the Typhoon aircraft for more than nine years at its specialist composite facility in Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire.

Previously, the company was contracted to produce inner and outer helmets to meet tranche 1 and tranche 2 requirements at a value of £6m. This tranche 3 order will add further helmets to these programmes worth an additional £1.4m.

For the benefit of smaller UK businesses that have yet to achieve the kind of high-calibre contracts highlighted above, Oxford University spin-out company Science Oxford announced the creation of an innovation centre, to support entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Due to open in 2015, the 25,000ft2 innovation centre will be part of a site in the city of Oxford that will incorporate a £30m science centre to be designed by Foster and Partners.

Oxford Science plans to build this science and enterprise centre on the site of Macclesfield House and expects the development to attract more than 100,000 visitors per year. Pending development of the science centre, the Macclesfield House building will be re-branded as ‘Oxford Centre for Innovation’ and will provide offices and business support for up to 30 small and growing companies.