MORE than 15 years after the former Grampian Regional Council tried to pioneer oil and gas and academic links with north-west Russia, Subsea UK has launched a drive to make it happen this time.
Its chief executive has just been to Murmansk with a trade mission and is in no doubt that British companies need to wake up, get in there and forge the relationships necessary for success in the Russian Barents Sea.
Alistair Birnie said that companies such as Expro Group and Wood Group unit JP Kenny had clearly demonstrated that doing business in this sector was possible.
In Expro’s case it was carrying out well-test work on the Shtokman gas project. JP Kenny is also involved with this massive development.
“For more UK companies to be involved in Shtokman would be very, very good,” said Mr Birnie
He said that, while nothing appeared to come out of the 1990s mission, all the companies that went to Murmansk this time already have a presence in the Russian market, generally through local agents.
“Russia will be a very important market in years to come, but to get some traction in this market we really need to push hard now.
“Scandinavian countries, and Norway in particular, have already made huge inroads in establishing relationships at the highest level, but this has not included recognition of the immense contribution that the UK has made to the upstream sector. We therefore need, wherever possible, to correct this inaccurate perception and get our message across.”
Mr Birnie said that, good though Norwegian companies were, there really was a great deal that UK businesses could bring to the Russian table, not least in the Russian Arctic.
“There is still this UK mind-set that, somehow, this is way off in the future.
“But, for Shtokman, EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contracts are out to bid.”
Mr Birnie predicted that Shtokman would be driven by three to four big EPC contractors, such was the scale of the project, but that cost would be an issue . . . something that British companies were used to.
He added: “Anyone here who is interested needs to get weaving.”
“You can’t expect to turn up late in the day and expect to participate.
“They will welcome overseas companies, though local content is an issue.”
Mr Birnie pointed out that Shtokman, with Gazprom as the lead player, had yet to receive sanction, but that the consortium was getting on with business, anticipating a green light from Moscow.
It is not only Shtokman, however, because Gazprom is wrestling with a portfolio of projects, key among which are Prirazlomnoye, Dolginskoye, Varandeyskoye and Moedynskoye.
Companies in the latest mission (led by UK Trade and Investment, and Scottish Development International) included Wood Group, Expro, Trelleborg, Triton Group, Atlas Copco and Teijin Aramid, plus Strathclyde University and the National Subsea Research Institute.
One of the outcomes of last month’s trip is that Subsea UK has signed a memorandum of understanding with Murmanshelf, a body that has been created to support businesses in the Murmansk region entering the oil and gas market.
Mr Birnie hopes this will serve to help develop relationships further to allow UK participation in that region.