Salt Separation Services

Clean and clear

Specialising in the design, manufacture, installation and commissioning of water treatment systems, Salt Separation Services was established in 1990 with the original vision of servicing Reverse Osmosis (RO) packages on North Sea oil and gas platforms.

In the period that has followed, the company has served many other sectors including the cruise industry, the Royal Navy and the industrial sector, but remains heavily involved in oil and gas.

European Oil and Gas Magazine spoke to director Daniel Shackleton about the company’s latest contracts, and the market that has supported the business in achieving prosperous records: “We’ve seen significant growth over the last three years in the oil and gas sector. Since 2010 we have grown to 54 employees and our turnover has increased year-on-year with financial year 2012/2013 being our best year ever. A number of years ago we were competing against larger businesses that were offering ‘standard’ off-the-shelf equipment that was perceived to be a cost effective solution to the operators at the time. Today, however, more often than not we are finding that clients require packages engineered in accordance with their own exacting specifications – as every project we deliver is bespoke, this suits our way of working. We have been successful in winning a number of projects because of this.”

As a relatively compact Small to Medium Enterprise (SME), Salt Separation Services is able to apply a high level of engineering expertise to projects, providing customers with maximum value products. By remaining diverse and working across all sectors its experience has grown, and this knowledge can be applied to other industries whilst developing flexible product solutions.

Recognising that potential issues relating to potable water exist offshore, its technologies are providing a valuable option for operators as Daniel explains: “A lot of platforms still bunker water from supply boats, which in winter can be a high risk activity. The platforms normally have four to seven days supply of potable water, so if there was bad weather for a number of days it starts to cause some serious issues with the availability of water, resulting in rationing and ultimately the de-manning of the platform. This would lead to production problems that can affect the operator financially.

“As more companies are acknowledging this and are willing to invest in desalination equipment for the production of potable water, it is our products they are looking to. We have received a significant amount of business from the retrofit market for offshore platforms originally built a few decades ago. The operators are looking to replace the obsolete and old technologies with our equipment, particularly when life-extending a platform or even for decommissioning activities.”

With its main presence being in the North Sea, Salt Separation Services has aided expansion amongst new operators, delivering a new plant to EnQuest, and hire plants to TAQA and CNR in the North Sea, with further plant due to be delivered. Alongside its growth in oil and gas, it has for the past 20 years been supporting the Royal Navy. In 2008, the company entered a nine-year support contract offering spares, technical support and post design services for fresh water generating equipment across the entire surface fleet. Throughout this relationship Salt Separation Services has developed some innovative products and as more operators are recognising its technologies, which are suitable for the most technical and challenging environments, the business has grown into export contracts.

Awarded in January 2013 the company secured a contract with Total E&P Nederland for a containerised water purification package for installation on the F15-A platform in the Southern-North Sea. Performance of the well has, through production, been reduced by salt deposition that accumulated in the well riser, limiting the gas flow. The technology supplied will treat the seawater to the level that would normally be re-mineralised to potable standards, but instead will be passed through a secondary RO membrane treating the water to a high level of purity which will ultimately be injected into the well riser to dissolve the salt.

With market demand keeping business activity buoyant at the moment, the company has been focused on increasing its own production capacity as Daniel details: “We have invested in an additional crane that has increased our lifting capacity from ten tonnes to 20 tonnes, and additionally we are continually recruiting. This can be a challenge as engineering and oil and gas industries are growing at a rate that is not being matched by fresh recruits. We have apprentices working for us who we are educating to support the future of the industry but with many youngsters heading down the academic route away from traditional craft apprenticeships, it does have potential long term problems.”

As well as having its own CompEx certified engineers, the company performs a significant amount of manufacturing in-house (including the fabrication and welding of materials such as carbon steel, stainless steel and super duplex stainless steel) to keep control of the quality of the products, so it is vital to keep skilled and trained operatives coming in to the industry. Keen to dissolve the outdated concepts that engineering is a ‘dirty’ industry Daniel highlighted: “We are making equipment to produce drinking water so there is really no cleaner industry than this.”

Looking towards the future, Daniel concluded: “We aim to maintain our presence in our current markets, becoming the number one supplier to the oil and gas and commercial marine sectors. With this in mind we will expand our manufacturing, spares, and service departments, ready to meet demand in both local and overseas markets.”

Salt Separation Services
Services: Water treatment systems