Pumped for action
Hughes Pumps has manufactured high-pressure positive displacement pumps and water jetting equipment since 1970, although its activities date back as far as 1868 when the Hughes company was involved in various trading and engineering roles.
As the business celebrated its centenary in 1968, it switched its focus to packaging water jetting equipment, and two years later produced its own JETIN high-pressure pump range at its London factory. Certainly a worldwide pioneer in the early days of the water jetting industry, by 1998 Hughes Pumps was offering its clients pumps and systems rated to 2750 bar (40,000 psi) and 375 kW (500 hp) using state of the art CNC machine tools.
Its success has continued long into 2000, with the organisation establishing a name for itself as the UK’s foremost water jetting pump expert. Managing director Phil Cranford reveals how it has carved out such an enviable market position. “We’re a relatively small, privately owned engineering business,” he says. “And the only true UK-based manufacturer of ultra high pressure water jetting pumps rated up to 2750 bar. Although we have a modestly sized 20-strong workforce, we’re a growing company.”
Elaborating on his company’s credentials and strengths, Phil continues: “In the UK we’re competing against representatives of foreign product line, which puts us in a strong position. We’re not reliant on anyone else because we undertake all manufacturing in-house. Our type of product requires after-sales support since it’s relatively maintenance intensive. To facilitate this support for the full ten years of a machine’s anticipated lifetime, we focus on building close relationship with clients.”
One of those customers is Subsea 7, with whom Hughes Pumps has been working for the past four years on interesting projects predominantly in Brazil where it has supplied high-pressure process pumps on pipe lay support vessels (PLSV). “The PLSV lays new oil pipelines on the seabed up to a water depth of 2000 metres, they connect to the oil well and we pre-fill it with seawater using a high volume pump,” explains Phil. ”We use another pump to raise the pipeline to a pressure of 500 bar to prove its integrity prior to flowing oil through it and dose inhibitors to prevent corrosion.”
In terms of applications, the oil and gas market is strong for Hughes Pumps,particularly in Aberdeen, Norway and Denmark, and there are numerous ways its products can be used offshore. “Our product line falls into two categories – water jetting equipment and process pumps,” Phil comments. “Water jetting is used extensively in the oil and gas sector for industrial maintenance with contractors or service providers using this equipment. Our pumps are ideal for activities such as cleaning subsea structures prior to non-destructive testing, marine growth removal from platform legs and surface preparation, which is a growing area as, using water pressure at 2750 bar, we can strip back coatings and corrosion. This has been well received in the offshore sector because it’s more environmentally friendly than grit blasting and produces an ideal surface for a new coating. We’re also involved in cold cutting, which is the use of water and abrasive to cut through steel structures without sparks or heat generation.”
Explaining further how Hughes Pumps helps customers through the use of powerful technology, Phil says: “Our water jetting equipment has a range of industrial cleaning and cutting applications using extremely high pressure. Our array of process pumps, which we supply to the likes of Aker Kværner, are effectively the same, although materials of construction differ slightly seeing as they pump different fluids at high pressures for applications such as methanol injection into gas wells.”
It is investment in R&D that allows Hughes Pumps to offer such a high level of technical competence to customers. Commenting on the organisation’s research capabilities, Phil says: “Currently, we have bold R&D projects running in the early stages to take us in excess of 3000 bar – a pressure above what our competitors offer. In our industry there’s a natural tendency to increase working pressures all the time and we have recently employed a new project engineer to assist in that. R&D is important to us – as a fairly small company in comparison to our US and German competitors, we’ve been slightly hollow in the market whereas now we can push the boundaries of development. I feel that we’re technically and commercially well placed to grab more of the marketplace over the next five years.”
Hughes Pumps’ main challenge is acquiring new staff of the right calibre to support its development. “We’re manufacturing a specialist product in a niche market, and the key to our success is finding the right people, especially in relation to our expansion phases,” Phil concedes. “However, I would say that we’ve struck gold with our new project engineer and our new export sales manager as well.”
It seems that Hughes Pumps has never been in such a fortuitous position and future growth opportunities look excellent. Phil concludes: “The Subsea 7 projects will hold us in good stead and we’re already in contact with similar companies. We’re focused on taking a bigger slice of our markets and, as we serve a diverse range of industries, we don’t need to look for new sectors – in actual fact, they find us.”
Hughes Pumps Limited
Products Water jetting and process pumps