Technically excellent

Based in Newcastle in the UK, DUCO Ltd, part of a group of companies that make up Technip Umbilical Systems, specialises in the engineering, design and manufacture of subsea umbilical systems for the wider Technip Group.

As the Technology and Support Center, DUCO Ltd, designs and develops products that are also sold through sister companies DUCO Inc, Angoflex and Asiaflex Products: “DUCO Ltd provides project management and engineering services to Angoflex and Asiaflex products, including umbilicals to some of the worlds largest subsea developments currently occurring in Angola,” states Dave Davis, DUCO Ltd’s vice president business development. “For many of these large Angolan developments, the subsea intervention umbilicals and armoured umbilicals requirements are manufactured in our Newcastle facility.”

In the fourth quarter of 2010 the company signed a seven-year framework agreement to cover projects carried out in the North Sea, following in the footsteps of a similar five-year agreement with Shell Malaysia: “Things have been progressing extremely well between the two companies in the time since this agreement was signed,” Dave continues. “What it does is establish between the two parties the technical and commercial aspect of an umbilical contract, which allows DUCO to better fast track Shell’s projects to a repeatable high quality standard due to our focus on lean manufacturing techniques.” The company has received several call out contracts as well in the last 12 months and also maintains a strong relationship with Shell in the US.

“What the company has seen is that the direction of the industry in general is definitely moving more towards these types of framework agreements. This is primarily as a result of the technical challenges that exist when it comes to the use and development of deepwater umbilicals.”

The company’s prosperity has continued throughout 2011 with the award of the Total ATLA project in Norway, which utilises hybrid umbilical technology, including both thermoplastic hose and steel tube fluid conduits. DUCO Ltd also received a letter of intent for the PetroSA Ikhwezi project in South Africa: “This is a particularly big project for the country and something that DUCO is extremely excited to be a part of,” Dave enthuses. “It involves a significant amount of subsea product and services (SPS) work, which consists of the associated hardware and flying leads required for the umbilical project.”

At the heart of the company’s operations is its research and development work: “Technip as an organisation invests a significant amount of money each year in the development of new products and solutions and this philosophy extends to DUCO, which has invested substantially into its own research programmes,” Dave says, going on to highlight how the company is reaping the rewards of this process. “In recent months DUCO has applied for seven new patents, one of which is based around high tensile strength aluminium conductor technology for deep water applications. This patent will enable the company to provide an economical solution to the challenges of copper elongation and fatigue in deepwater developments down to 4000 metres and beyond for subsea processing and pumping.”

Even in the face of the challenging economic conditions that blight most of the major markets in which it operates, DUCO has found that the oil and gas sector continues to bring with it plenty of opportunities: “With the oil barrel price remaining steady around the 100 dollar mark, a great deal of oil field activity remains, especially in the North Sea and off the coast of West Africa. Brazil is one location that DUCO is certainly looking closely at, at the moment,” Dave states.

Having made investment in both its main facility, commencing a programme to increase its plant size and introduce an industry leading helix machine, and its personnel who now number approximately 500 people, DUCO remains totally committed to the North East of England. Nevertheless its vision for the future extends much further afield, as Dave concludes: “As it stands today the company is pretty bullish as far as its business within the oil and gas sector goes. Energy demand throughout the developing world remains strong and when you see the level of growth occurring in the Southern hemisphere and South East Asia in particular, it makes a company like DUCO even more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Services: Subsea umbilical systems