Patrick Phelan, managing director of JDR Cable Systems Ltd
JDR, based in Littleport in Cambridgeshire, is a leading provider of custom-designed and manufactured subsea power cables, umbilical systems and marine cables for a broad range of applications. The company’s significant portfolio of product design, manufacture and delivery extends throughout the oil and gas sector, offshore renewables industry and seismic and defence markets. JDR’s subsea wellhead, production and workover umbilicals are installed and used around the world, engineered and manufactured to exacting standards for operation in the most challenging of environments.
1. How global are JDR‘s markets these days?JDR’s markets range from Houston and the Gulf of Mexico in the West to South East Asia and Western Australia in the East. Of course, we still serve our original market in the North Sea, though that stretches to the Atlantic, West of Shetland, and the Norwegian offshore sector too. Deepwater fields off the coast of West Africa are increasingly important, and the Middle East also provides significant business.
We have factories at deepwater quayside locations in Hartlepool and Thailand, and service centres in Houston and Bergen. We have inland manufacturing factories in Littleport, Cambridgeshire and Rotterdam, and service centres in Houston and Bergen.2. How has the global credit crunch and ensuing recession impacted, if at all, on JDR’s international business?We have seen many of the planned offshore oil & gas projects be postponed during this time of reduced world oil demand. The resulting shortfall in business from that sector has been more than replaced by our rapid development into the offshore renewable energy market. That said, we certainly expect the oil & as market to recover in the next couple of years and we are looking to achieve an overall balance in the markets we serve.3. You have just invested in a new facility in the North East. What does this represent in terms of investment by the company and what is the significance of this move?We invested £16m in Phase 1 of Hartlepool and we have created a state-of-the-art factory to produce array cables for offshore wind farms, and subsea power cables and production umbilicals for offshore oil & gas projects.
This is very significant because this factory is Britain’s only purpose-designed subsea power cable factory that is located at a deepwater quayside. From here, we can load out single products weighing up to 2200 tonnes each.4. You have managed to sustain growth from a base in Littleport. How has this helped you strategically?Littleport is where the business was originally established over 30 years ago, and is our headquarters for R & D. From here, we produce intervention workover umbilical systems for control of subsea equipment at up to 10,000 feet water depth.
It is also where we manufacture control cables and high pressure hydraulic hoses for the umbilicals that we produce in Hartlepool and Thailand. Our history of producing divers’ umbilicals for life support is the foundation of our passion for quality and reliability, and that is why we like to keep these critical components designed and manufactured in Littleport. Strategically, this commitment to quality and reliability is recognised by our clients when they order their mission-critical subsea systems.5. Have you managed to maintain an engineering presence in the UK, given the size and scale of many of the projects you handle?Yes, most certainly. We have teams of design engineers who work pre-order, post-order and in R & D, for umbilicals, power cables, and for the design of powered reeler systems. These engineers specialise in these different product groups and are based in Littleport, Hartlepool, and Newcastle respectively.
Our graduate development programme has been key to ensuring a continuous stream of new talent. We also have a team of design engineers in Bangkok, supporting our factory on the coast of Thailand.6. In what industries does JDR enjoy its strongest market share?Offshore Oil & Gas is our largest market. For the intervention umbilicals that we make at Littleport, we have enjoyed a 65 per cent share of the world market for three years running. Over the past decade, the industry has moved into deeper and deeper waters, and that means higher pressures and higher temperatures.
We have developed our products accordingly. Our continuous investment in R & D has helped us stay ahead of the game and to increase our market share to this level.7. Do you envisage breaking into new markets – not just territorially but in terms of market segments?Yes, certainly. We have recently broken into the market for offshore renewable energy in a big way. We are just completing the final array cables for the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, having produced over 200km, weighing over 5000 tonnes, from our factories in Littleport and Hartlepool. We are mid-way through manufacturing the subsea cable system for the ground-breaking Wave Hub project. This is a 25km power cable, complete with subsea junction box and four cables for connection to wave energy convertors, which is all going to be installed off the coast of Cornwall in the summer of 2010.
In December 2009, we were awarded the array cables for the London Array wind farm, and these will be completed in 2010 and 2011, with manufacturing being carried out in both Littleport and Hartlepool. We have a plan in place to extend our offering to include the high voltage export cables that bring the power from the wind farm to shore. There are no factories offering this product in the UK at present.8. Will this involve further expansion by JDR and can you envisage in what ways this may manifest itself?Our next step is to expand our operation in Hartlepool with a further investment to install additional lay-up equipment and storage carousels in order to treble the capacity and throughput from this new factory.
With our success in Round 2 projects already demonstrated, and in preparation for Round 3, we are looking at making this significant investment very soon. This will certainly mean more jobs, though we try to keep human intervention to a minimum by including clever control systems on our equipment.9. There is a lot of talk about the UK having a world lead in ‘green’ and ‘clean technologies.’ How well is JDR placed to exploit what appears a massive market – offshore wind energy production?JDR is very well placed to exploit this market. Indeed, some would say we are already doing so, having won orders for the array cables for the two largest ever offshore wind farms to date. We set about taking a leading role in this market back in 2004 when we participated in the Beatrice Demonstrator project. That was a very small wind farm with only two turbines linked back to the Beatrice offshore oil platform which already had a power cable running back to shore.
However, the turbines were the first 5MW machines to be installed offshore, and at 50m water depth this was deep water as far as wind farms are concerned. That experience was vital in preparing ourselves for the technology required on Round 2, and will also be relevant to the deepwater locations required for Round 3.10. To what extent do you regard JDR as an innovator?Innovation is central to everything we do. From our product design, to factory and machinery design, we are always innovating. Offshore oil & gas always presents new challenges and offshore renewable energy is a whole new industry. To take a leading role, you have to lead in terms of innovation, from factory processes to large scale system design.
Our heritage of 30 years of ever-deeper oil & gas projects has certainly helped to create the solid foundation of creative technology that is enabling us to lead the way in terms of subsea power cable systems for offshore renewables.