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Aberdeen Firm Provides The Perfect Model for Offshore Safety

31 January 2011

An Aberdeen company has produced a training tool that could help personnel in offshore companies gain a better understanding of pressure control systems like those used on the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Marketec, which is being helped by Business Gateway, Aberdeen City & Shire, has developed the WISE-Board system, a powerful tool for illustrating complex technical processes on oil and gas installations.

Machined from rigid plastic laminate and used in conjunction with a magnetic whiteboard, WISE-Board components can be used to create a ‘working model’ of a system or equipment assembly.

Bruce Adam, owner, Marketec, said: “I was watching television last year and saw Admiral Thad Allen, who was in charge of the Gulf clean-up operation, use a complicated diagram on a whiteboard to announce how they were attempting to contain the well. I knew we could produce a visualisation system that would make the process and equipment much easier to understand because seeing – and understanding – the consequences of changing conditions are key to successful training and operation of complex or hazardous systems. That saw the birth of the systems we now provide for subsea pressure control equipment.”

Alongside the WISE-Board range of products, which were launched last year, Marketec design and manufacture scaled system models for oil and gas companies including BP, Petrowell and Hunting Energy Services which are used in North America, the Middle East, Norway, France and Russia.

The company’s range of robust plastic models, which cost between £500 and £15,000, provide an invaluable training and operations planning aid that can help offshore operators avoid confusion or misunderstanding – a condition that the National Commission into the Deepwater Horizon explosion says was a key factor in the oil spill incident which made headlines last year.

Adam (54) said: “In the oil and gas industry, like all industries, there are fewer opportunities for on-the-job learning. People are getting less and less exposure to the systems they will be working on. This should be countered with tools to enable the training experience to be more efficient. It’s not unusual for offshore operations to involve multiple companies, participating on different stages of the process. Having a training or awareness tool that helps them visualise the extent and configuration of the system can help them figure out how their actions may affect the whole system.

“Our products offer a cost effective visualisation aid that provide operators with the opportunity to test hypothetical situations and gain experience at a desk top level. Engineers can test out a range of operational scenarios and see the full system reaction in the safety of a training room before attempting the work on a rig.”

Set up in 1994 to produce technical documentation and training materials for the oil and gas industry, Marketec, which is based in Cotton Street, Aberdeen, first investigated model-based training aids four years ago.

He said: “I was helping to train some engineers in 2006 and noticed how they became much more engaged with the concepts we were teaching when I gave them some components to handle. That’s when the seed was planted and since introducing the models to our portfolio we’ve had great feedback. Clients repeatedly report greater retention levels and fewer mistakes when hands-on systems are used. I want to grow the model side of my business as a separate entity whilst also continuing to provide technical documentation support. Business Gateway is providing guidance on how best to do this as well as helping me understand and tackle the challenges facing a small manufacturing business.”

Karen Stewart, Business Adviser, Business Gateway said: “Bruce has over 30-years of experience working in the operational and training side of the oil and gas industry which includes 17 years knowledge gained writing training manuals and presentation materials for that sector. He is a true entrepreneur, creative, brave and forward thinking. His company isn’t simply a model making business that makes planes, trains and automobiles, it’s a specialist company that understands exactly the needs of oil and gas companies. There are different issues and processes that he will face in the manufacturing world and we are working with him to ensure that both parts of his business continue to grow.”

And with the Commons energy and climate change committee saying more needs to be done to prevent a deep water drilling disaster off Scotland’s coast, Marketec is perfectly placed to help companies ensure that never happens.

Adam said: “Oil and gas companies are re-evaluating their safety and operational procedures following the Gulf disaster. What we can provide are cost effective solutions that will allow them to plan effective responses to a range of operational issues and failures, both offshore and on land. Our products are a tool for the future in training and operational planning for the offshore industry.”

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