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Furness Business News

US oilmen open new Barrow factory

NW Evening Mail - 10 June 2009


BOSSES of an American group which has invested more than £6m in a Furness firm visited Barrow yesterday for the opening of its new factory.

Houston-based Gyrodata, which specialises in technology for precision drilling of oil and gas wells, says the skilled engineering jobs at the factory could rise from the current 30 to around 45 within three to five years.

The Furness subsidiary has just relocated from a smaller plant at Greenodd to enable expansion,

It makes intelligent “rotary steerable drills” with onboard electronics and navigation equipment for the worldwide oil and gas industry.

The intelligent drills are described as being like an underground version of a cruise missile.

They are able to determine where they are underground and which direction to go in. They can reach depths of up to three miles and can be steered manually as well. The drills were the first of their kind in the world when they were invented by former Barrow shipyard designer, Peter Allen, more than 20 years ago.

He is the engineering director of the Barrow subsidiary Gyrodata Drilling Automation.

Until 2002 it was the combined Furness and Cambridge-based company, Cambridge Drilling and Automation.

Barrow Borough Council's deputy mayor, Councillor Rory McClure, snipped a red tape to declare the refurbished former Telemeter plant on Park Road open.

Mr Allen said when Gyrodata bought it, the company had built just two of its steerable drills.

Now it has 50 systems which are used around the world, on land and offshore, sometimes to reach wells which otherwise would be left untapped.

Gyrodata’s American chairman Steve Klopp said a rival US firm showed interest in buying the Furness firm, but would have taken the hardware back to the US and got rid of employees.

However, Mr Klopp said that wasn’t Gyrodata’s style. He said: “We invest in people, we don’t invest in gadgets. If you employ creative people and get them working together you never know what they are going to come up with.

“They will solve problems you never knew you had. If you just take the equipment you are investing in maybe yesterday’s market.”

He praised Peter Allen and his Furness staff.

He said: “These are incredibly great people. When you get them working together they come up with the most amazing solutions.”

He added that precision engineering skills are hard to find but said: “This area happens to have some highly skilled people that are available.

“We are very excited about it (the new factory) and we are very excited about this area and these people.”

He added: “Peter Allen designed an entire industry. Quite frankly, I think he has been under appreciated.”

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