NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Aberdeen Oil and Gas Technology centre opens

Drilling-rig simulator at Robert Gordon University where the technology can be tested
Image caption Drilling-rig simulator at Robert Gordon University where the technology can be tested

A new research and development facility has opened in Aberdeen to help breathe new life into the struggling North Sea oil industry.

The Oil and Gas Technology Centre will partly fund the work while also acting as a bridge between small tech firms and the big oil producers.

The industry said research projects have recently been neglected.

It said this happened after many production platforms were sold by the big oil majors to much smaller firms.

Oil supply company Mistras has been developing technology more commonly used to enable expectant mothers to see their babies.

The ultrasound scanners, complete with cold jelly, are being used to detect corrosion in pipes.

The Dyce-based company hopes the technology centre will help them get their product to new customers.

Image caption Ultrasound scan of a corroded oil pipe

Managing director Tim Walsh said: "What we are hoping and expecting from the technology centre is that it will allow us as an organisation that has solutions to particular problems that we know exist to get a better connection with end users and clients and get more traction.

"We want them to allow us to take them out into the field, give us the opportunity to demonstrate to potential clients that the technology works and that the technology can actually allow them to do what we want them to do."

The Oil and Gas Technology centre will invest in small firms with solid ideas and help pair some of those developers with the offshore operators that need them.

Chief executive Colette Cohen said: "We have much more operators in the north sea now, I think it's about 60 operators whereas back in the 80s it was about five or six, so it is a hugely different world.

"Those smaller operators don't have a technology organisation. They're not big enough and they can't support that, it wouldn't be economic.

"So this is a time when we can provide that service to them."

Image caption Ultrasound equipment being trialled at a facility in Aberdeen

The new centre will build on the existing work being carried out by Aberdeen's two universities.

At Robert Gordon University they have a drilling-rig simulator where they train students and refresh the skills of those in the industry.

They will now be able to incorporate new technologies into their models to see if they work effectively.

Prof Phil Hassard said: "They'll be able to get the results back from that... they can be tested here and are more cost effective than trying to do it on a real rig."

The centre's conception stems from the principles of Sir Ian Wood's report into maximising economic recovery in the North Sea.

The oil tycoon was one of the invited guests at the official opening.

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