EEEGR 2013: Gas & Wind to Boost East of England Energy Industry

EEEGR 2013 Gas & Wind to Boost East of England Energy Industry

Delegates to the EEEGR 2013 conference went home enthused by more evidence of the renewed dash for gas and a fresh blast of windpower to boost the East of England energy industry.

Experts from three world-leading wind turbine producers agreed that the East of England was ideally placed to support the development of the massive wind farms planned for the Southern North Sea including those north of Belgium and Holland.

There was further encouragement for the sector, however, with the prospect of future contracts with the impending Dudgeon windfarm off North Norfolk.

At the same time, delegates at the Holiday Inn, Norwich North, were told that if they took home just one thought it was that oil & gas was not a dying industry but one which was flourishing and “here to stay”.

That was the message from Mark Hughes, head of development for RWE Dea UK, who said investment in the UK Continental Shelf in 2013 would be £13.5bn, the highest ever.

He also dispelled the myth that fracking was new, saying it was first tried in 1860 in Texas. Today it was part of a continuing process for the Clipper South project in the Southern North Sea which started producing gas last year after an initial fracking of five wells, with more to follow.

George Grant, chairman of Watt Power, said gas should still supply 40% of the UK power needs by 2030 and there would be an unprecedented level of investment – £225bn – before then. His company was planning a gas-fired power station at Eye industrial park.

Suffolk is also home to a new energy-from-waste thermal power station being built at Great Blakenham. SITA UK regional manager Cliff Matthews told the audience it should start operating in mid-2014 with a District Heating Network set up locally to gain maximum benefit.

Halfdan Brustad, Statoil vice president, said that having completed their role in Sheringham Shoal windfarm, they were now moving on to the £2.4bn Dudgeon project where they would be tendering for major contracts mid-2014 and operating by 2017.

“We want a high UK involvement in the project with huge opportunities for the local supply chain,” he said, adding that cost efficiency would be key.

A special windpower session saw the three turbine representatives join a panel debate moderated by James Gray, inward investment director for EEEGR and the East of England Energy Zone.

Gray said the East of England was now well positioned in the thinking of the offshore industry and it was important to see industry leaders coming to meet the region’s supply chain. He agreed with the panel that the East of England was ideally placed for manufacturing foundations and towers and the assembly of turbines and would also prove to be the ideal base for O&M.

Ranjit Mene, head of UK offshore sales for RE Power, said the region should play to its strengths and being close to the massive East Anglia Array windfarm plans was important although more investment in ports might still be needed.

Andrew Fox, business relationship manager with Areva, said that locality was key when it came to O&M and the region was perfectly placed to use its long-term expertise, knowledge and skills in a more sustainable part of the business.

Skills were also on the mind of Norwich North MP Chloe Smith who told the conference that the region’s focus should be on encouraging young people into the industry.

Energy and engineering offered exciting and engaging roles for young people and the sector needed to remember that tomorrow’s engineers are today’s primary school pupils.

She commended EEEGR for its work to attract new skills into the industry and praised the University of East Anglia for working towards a School for Engineering. She hoped such initiatives would complement her support for the Norwich for Jobs campaign.

Press Release, September 20, 2013