Each month, The Engineer picks 10 of the most notable news stories from our Business Briefs archive. As the Dubai Airshow (13–17 November) prompted many business deals for aircraft and engines, contracts were also signed in the rail, marine and automotive sectors. Energy stories took a back seat, with the exception of agreements being made for the UK’s largest sustainability project.
Airbus had a very successful time at the Airshow, winning a total of 211 orders and commitments worth $20.5bn (£12.9bn). The order intake included 135 firm orders worth $13.7bn — for 130 A320-neos and five A380s — and 76 memoranda of understanding (MoU) worth $6.8bn. Qatar Airways made the single-largest firm order, for 50 A320-neos and five A380s, worth $6.4bn. Boeing said it landed nearly $20bn worth of orders at the show, excluding options.
Land transport, too, was the subject of a number of contracts, including one awarded to Sevcon for it to supply drivetrain control technology for a range of utility and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) being manufactured in China. The company’s specialist Gen4 microprocessor controllers are to be used in a powertrain platform developed by Zhejiang Xinyang Industry, an established manufacturer of UTVs (utility task vehicles), ATVs, Jeeps, go-karts and amphibious vehicles.
The electric range of UTVs is being developed for sale in Europe, the US and Southeast Asia and is powered by a 48V, 5kW motor that will be controlled by a Sevcon Gen4 size 4 motor controller. The vehicle, which will have a top speed of 45kph and a range of up to 80km, attracted considerable interest at its recent launch at the EICMA show in Milan.
Network Rail, meanwhile, completed its purchase of the assets of Hydrex Equipment’s rail division from its administrators, KPMG. This purchase included a transfer of employment for all rail division staff. Hydrex is claimed to be the largest provider of road-rail vehicles to the UK’s rail industry and is a key supplier to Network Rail and its infrastructure contractors. Network Rail claimed its purchase of Hydrex’s rail division ended an extended period of uncertainty for Hydrex’s employees, customers and suppliers.
In Italy, meanwhile, cable manufacturer Nexans was awarded three contracts, worth a total of around €10m (£8.6m), to supply specialised signalling and telecoms cables to Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), the state-owned operator of Italy’s railway network. Over the next two years, more than 2,700km of Nexans cables will be installed in upgrading and maintenance contracts across Italy, to help ensure improved safety for rail traffic and passengers.
The signalling cables (type IS 200 D) and telecoms cables (type TT 241 and TT242) will be manufactured locally in the Nexans Battipaglia facility. The coaxial cables for the third project will be manufactured in the Nexans plant based in Monchengladbach, Germany.
One of the most valuable marine sector contracts was signed across the pond, where the US Navy awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $21.1m contract to perform reactor-plant planning yard services for nuclear submarines and support yard services for moored training ships. The contract has a potential value of $121.2m through 2016 if all options are exercised and funded.
This work will engage Electric Boat’s engineering and design organisation, which comprises more than 3,000 employees. These employees work on all facets of the submarine life cycle, including concept formulation, design, construction, maintenance, modernisation, inactivation and disposal.
Elsewhere, BAE Systems won a five-year contract to provide the information services necessary for successful operation of the surface fleet of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary in Portsmouth. The Configuration Accounting Service involves the management of a central information system, known as the Surface Ship Definition Database, which contains more than five-million records relating to Royal Navy ships.
The company’s engineers will ensure all data, including technical documents, design-change guidance and spares lists for each ship, are accurate, up to date and easily accessible. This information is required to co-ordinate all maintenance, repairs and upgrades to the fleet effectively.
In the UK energy sector, gas company CompactGTL (CGTL) entered into an agreement with the UK operating division of US engineering services provider Fluor. The contract was for the delivery of pre-FEED and FEED studies for potential commercial-scale modular gas-to-liquids projects.
The five-year framework contract will also cover: putting the results of data from CGTL’s various demonstration plants into commercial practice; execution of feasibility and scoping studies; and supporting the delivery of CGTL’s EPC (engineering procurement and construction) contracts. Fluor’s team is based in Farnborough and will be supported by its other international offices as required.
On the greener side of things, telecoms firm Cable & Wireless (C&W) and smart-grid networking company Silver Spring Networks signed an agreement to participate in the Eco-Island Partnership, the largest energy sustainability project in the UK. The Eco-Island Partnership’s objective is to make the Isle of Wight energy self-sufficient by 2020. The project will implement wind, solar, tidal and geothermal renewable energy generation technologies connected to a smart grid to deliver clean energy reliably and efficiently.
C&W and Silver Spring will provide a smart grid platform to link renewable technologies, the grid and all of the homes and businesses across the Isle of Wight into an integrated system. This will be the UK’s first holistic, self-sustaining smart grid system and is targeted to help the community manage energy supply and demand with greater efficiency. C&W and Silver Spring Networks will deploy ubiquitous, secure, low-cost network connectivity for the smart grid that will be utilised across a broad set of secure, pervasive, IPv6-based smart grid and smart metering initiatives.
Back on the mainland, building services provider EIC was chosen to provide mechanical services to the UK’s largest Sikh temple, as it builds a £7.5m community annexe. Construction of the community annexe at Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick in Sandwell, West Midlands, will be carried out in two phases and EIC will work in partnership with main contractor Thomas Vale Construction during the first phase of work.
The project will double the size of the four-storey, 78,000m2 building, which is one of the oldest Sikh temples in the country. EIC has been awarded a nine-month, £800,000 contract to design and install the mechanical and public health services of the temple’s new facilities, which include an 800-seater langar (dining) hall, wedding hall, lecture theatre and classrooms.
In contrast to modernising something very old, our final story concerns the creation of something very modern. French battery company Saft was awarded a multi-million-Euro contract by Thales Alenia Space to supply 81 on-board Li-ion batteries for the Iridium Next low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. The Iridium Next batteries will be designed, manufactured, assembled, integrated and tested in Saft’s facility in Poitiers, France. The first deliveries to Thales Alenia Space will be in December 2012, after which the battery systems will be delivered over a four-year schedule. Iridium Next is scheduled to start launching in 2015.