Each month The Engineer picks 10 of the most notable contract news stories from our Business Briefs archive. This month’s selection sees UK businesses being offered extra support, as some of them get engaged in scientific development and environmental issues. Globally, there have been major contracts signed within the energy and defence sectors.
At the beginning of the month, property minister Baroness Wilcox announced that more than £3m of in-year savings made by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) would be used to support UK business.
These savings, she said, would fund projects aimed at helping companies to develop new technologies and offering advice regarding how to develop their intellectual property.
According to UK government, this announcement forms part of a cross-government package of measures designed to help the country’s five million small businesses grow, in hopes of boosting enterprise across Britain.
Support aimed at small businesses in particular was offered by Cambridge-based consultancy Think Product Design (TPD), as it launched a start-up support service aimed at providing affordable product design for start-ups and SMEs.
The service is said to act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for product design and development and includes advice on funding, patents, industrial design and transfer to manufacturing.
Government investment was also placed in the science sector in the form of a new public-private joint venture to establish Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus in Cheshire as one of the world’s principal locations for scientific research, technology development and entrepreneurial collaboration.
Science minister David Willetts confirmed the government’s support for the partnership, which comprises the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Halton Borough Council, the North West Development Agency (NWDA) and Langtree, an investment development company for private sector property.
The 20-year joint venture created a 50:50 partnership between the public and private sectors, and is expected to bring more than 6,000 jobs to the area during its lifetime, attracting further domestic and international investment in scientific research and innovation.
In a further demonstration of UK scientific innovation, investment in the renewable energy sector took a leap as many orders were made for wave and wind energy generators. One of these featured engineering firm Mabey Bridge, which secured its first order for wind turbine towers to be built at its soon-to-be-completed facility in Newhouse, Chepstow, Wales.
The contract, placed by wind-energy supplier REpower, is for nine foundation rings and five steel tubular towers, each weighing 150 tonnes and standing 80m tall. Work begins this month (December) and is expected to be delivered to REpower in April 2011.
Five towers and rings will be stationed at the Seamer wind farm near Stockton-on-Tees, while four rings will go to the Low Spinney wind farm near Lutterworth, Leicestershire.
Wind turbines also formed the basis of a major deal signed by SSE Generation, the generation business of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). The company signed a service agreement with GE covering its fleet of 127 GE wind turbines in operation across the UK and Ireland.
The agreement will provide a wide range of technical support services for SSE’s 1.5MW GE wind turbines, allowing SSE to customise technical support services on a site-by-site basis.
Energy, especially of the renewable kind, featured in many international deals as well.
Over in Asia, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding employed Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) to develop PowerBuoy technology for Japanese sea conditions. This new contract builds on the company’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in October 2009 with Mitsui, Idemitsu Kosan and Japan Wind Development for the development of wave energy in Japan.
Since then, the consortium has worked with the Japanese government to increase recognition of wave power in Japanese energy policy, which intends to boost renewable energy sources to 10 per cent of primary energy supply by 2020.
Under this agreement, which is expected to be performed over the next six months, OPT and Mitsui intend to complete work on a mooring system and progress the identification of a project site for an in-ocean trial of the PowerBuoy system.
Meanwhile, a new combined-cycle natural-gas-fired plant was built in Canada for TransCanada Energy. The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of Halton Hills Generating Facility in Ontario was successfully completed mid-month by Aker Construction, with its joint-venture partner Burns & McDonnell.
As part of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) initiative to help meet the critical energy and stability needs of the southwest Greater Toronto area, the generating facility provides reliability to support Ontario’s growing renewable energy electricity production from wind and solar, while contributing towards replacing coal-fired power generation.
The 684MW 2×1 combined-cycle natural-gas-fired plant was built on an 80-acre green field site in Halton Hills and created approximately 800 construction jobs.
Another energy-sector deal saw Foster Wheeler’s global engineering and construction group being awarded a contract by Perusahaan Gas Negara (PGN), an Indonesian state-owned natural gas business, for the provision of project management consultancy (PMC) services in building the ‘Medan Floating LNG Terminal’ in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
The contract will be included in Foster Wheeler’s third-quarter 2010 bookings but its value was not disclosed. Foster Wheeler’s scope of work includes technical assistance through the initial phase of the development of the project, conceptual design of the terminal, and basic design of the subsea and onshore pipeline.
Also in the natural-gas energy sector, automation technology company ABB won an order worth $58m (£36m) to provide power and propulsion systems for six liquefied natural gas (LNG) transport vessels to be built by Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) at its shipyard in South Korea.
The order was booked during the third quarter of 2010 and is scheduled to be commissioned from 2012 through 2015. The delivery includes power generation and distribution systems, propulsion control systems and related engineering services for the ships, which will be used by several major oil and gas industry end customers to transport liquefied natural gas.
Moving on to business in the defence sector, November saw the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) select five awardees to provide systems-engineering and testing services under the MDA engineering and support services (MiDAESS) contract. One of this five was Information Technology, a business unit of General Dynamics.
The five-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract has a $1.6bn (£1bn) ceiling value for all awardees, but has no initial award value.
Defence against forces of an environmental kind received a boost in November through a contract from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
In partnership with the Welsh Assembly, Defra awarded a contract to design, deliver and evaluate a National Emergency Response Exercise for the UK to a team comprising consultancy Capita Symonds, VectorCommand, Halcrow and Scott Wilson.
The eight-day exercise will test emergency responses to a major flood scenario across several regions of the UK by agencies such as the police, fire, coastguard, ambulance and local authorities.
Codenamed ’Watermark’, it is scheduled for March 2011. The exercise will include the highest level of government involvement through Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR), as well as regional and local emergency command centres across England and Wales.