A low carbon revolution is taking place in the UK and a tight-knit team of experts on Teesside are making it possible.
Teesside steel was once the driving force behind the first industrial revolution. Now some of the Britain’s largest civil engineering projects – from the UK’s largest on-shore gas storage facility to some of Europe’s most ambitious wind farm projects – are being made possible thanks to Steel River Consultants.
The company, based at Concorde House, in Stockton, provides Health and Safety management services and construction and design management co-ordination to some of the biggest blue chip companies in the world.
In a little over two years, the company has won a growing reputation for its expertise in Health and Safety consultancy support. Along the way it has worked on some of the most ambitious civil engineering construction projects of the past few years, including:
- Construction and design management co-ordination for the Humber Gateway Wind Farm, located 8km off the East Yorkshire coast, which will produce enough electricity to light 170,000 homes;
- Health, safety and environmental management support for the UK’s largest on-shore gas storage facility near Aldbrough, in East Yorkshire. The £290m project provides about seven per cent of the UK’s total gas storage capacity – enough to supply more than four million homes – in giant underground caverns;
- Construction design and management and site safety services for the new £36m pulverised coal injection plant being built by Siemens at the Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) blast furnace in Redcar, Teesside;
- Safety management support for the Teesside offshore wind farm being constructed 1.5km north of Redcar off the Teesside coast.
Steel River Consultants was set up by managing director Graham Tyerman in August 2010. Graham, 43, already had extensive experience having being an associate director of a multi-national project management consultancy, in Stockton, and EDF Energy Renewables.
Graham said: “During my time at EDF-ER I realised that the market in renewables needed more competition with regards to construction and design management and health and safety consultancy. There were only two main players so I set up Steel River in August 2010.
Initially, the company consisted of just Graham and a secretary, but his reputation meant Steel River quickly landed a contract with MPIC to provide health and safety services on the Teesside offshore wind farm project.
Since then the company has gone from strength-to-strength and Graham now has a team of eight specialists working for him.
The latest recruit to join the firm is Rob Dotchin, who has more than 18 years experience in the oil and gas construction industry.
Although there are legal Health and Safety requirements during the construction and design phase, having the right expertise can still save time and money.
Graham explained: “According to a recent study, 60 per cent of all accidents can be avoided by a good design – it is our job to ensure designers are assessing the significant hazards and risks on a project.”
Steel River’s experts work with the client and project designers to review the options and, according to Graham, the most expensive solution is not necessarily the best.
“Obviously, there are costs associated with each option. One option could be £1m, one could be £500,000 and one could be £30,000. The cheapest option may carry a very high risk potential but the £1m solution may not be worth the investment.
“It’s always a balance between cost and risk. We balance the risks. If a project is low risk why would you spend £1m? If it’s a high risk you would invest in the technology and go for a solution that offers a risk as low as reasonably practicable.
“The Health and Safety Executive requires evidence that each option has been analysed and they want to know the though process that led to the final decision. A lot of design happens without an auditable trail. The designer knows what he wants and that’s it.
“We have to look at the risks the designers has identified, how they have tried to reduce those risks and, ultimately, have as many risks ameliorated before construction starts. We hand over the residual risks, which can’t be designed out, to the principal contractor who has to put measures in place to develop the project in as safe a manner as possible.”
The renewables industry, particularly offshore wind farm development, presents a whole new set of challenges. Wind turbines and their connections to the National Grid have to be designed to withstand an incredibly hostile environment, high winds, large waves, storms and the ever-present threat of salt corrosion.
Rob explained: “The latest windfarms are moving further offshore so companies have to consider things like the current types of foundations, working in hostile environments, constructing in greater depths of water, transfer of personnel and accommodation. It’s a much more challenging environment.”
Despite that, the North Sea still offers an optimum environment for sea-based wind turbines – relatively shallow waters with high winds – which is why the UK is forging ahead in wind farm development.
In 2012, more than 73 per cent of new wind farm capacity was installed in British waters – the UK is literally blowing away the competition.
Thanks to the expertise of its team Steel River is very well positioned – figuratively and literally.
“Being on Teesside we are at the hub many of the UK’s largest renewable projects,” said Graham. “The majority of the large phase three projects are off the East coast. We are rapidly becoming one of the biggest companies in the North-East for the provision of health and safety consultancy.”
The company’s burgeoning reputation has contributed to its spectacular growth. Turnover has grown from £256,000 in the first year to £850,000 this year.
For the future, Graham hopes to keep expanding the business working on health and safety consultancy across a broad spectrum of industries with a particular emphasis on renewables.
“This is only the beginning,” he said. “Britain is investing heavily in a low-carbon future and it’s a great feeling to be playing such a big part in it. Enlightened companies know the value we bring to a big project. We should be one of the first appointments and we should become an integral part of the project management team.
“Because, at the end of the day, the better the project is run at the front end, in design, the more cost you can save and the smoother it runs.”