Post date: Tuesday, 7th August 2012

BP to bankroll £60m energy materials research centre

North Sea gas field

The chancellor also today welcomed the announcement by GDF SUEZ of a new gas extraction in the southern North Sea.

BP is to finance a new £60m materials research centre at the University of Manchester, which will support the energy industry.

The International Centre for Advanced Materials (ICAM) facility will be developed within Manchester's Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The University is already famous for its discovery of, and research into, graphene, the carbon-based super-thin material that won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov.

The investments will be made over the next 10 years, and will be shared with Cambridge University, Imperial College, London and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They will create 25 new academic posts, at least 100 PhDs and 80 post-doctorals, and help maintain the world-leading status of the UK in the research of advanced materials.

Announcing the investment Bob Dudley, BP’s group chief executive, said: "Advanced materials and coatings will be vital in finding, producing and processing energy safely and efficiently in the years ahead.

"Energy producers will work at unprecedented depths, pressures and temperatures; as refineries, plants and pipeline operators seek ever better ways to combat corrosion. Manchester has world-leading capabilities and facilities in materials and it was chosen after a global search to act as the ‘hub’ of the centre, with ‘spokes’ in other university departments worldwide."

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice chancellor of Manchester University, called it: "An excellent announcement for UK science [that] recognises the excellence of our universities, our research and our willingness and ability to work with global industry."

The announcement was welcomed by the chancellor, George Osborne, speaking at the second day of the business energy summit at the British Embassy in London. He said it was evidence of the success of the Government in “creating an environment in which innovation can thrive and businesses can grow.”

Business secretary Vince Cable added: "Collaboration between business and higher education institutions is boosting the status of the UK as a driver of innovation, and giving our firms a competitive edge. I’m pleased that BP has chosen to partner with a number of our world class universities to find new and more efficient ways of using and generating power.”

Fossil fuels day at the summit

If yesterday's energy business summit theme was renewable energy, today's is fossil fuels.

Vince Cable and George Osborne are welcoming new announcements of investments in the fossil fuel sector, including the creation of up to 4,000 UK jobs as a result of shallow water gas extraction from the 18bn cubic metre Cygnus field, the sixth largest under the Southern North Sea, by GDF SUEZ, together with Centrica and Bayerngas.

Production is expected to start in late 2015. The field is expected to meet demand for nearly one and a half million homes at peak production, accounting for around 5% of the UK’s gas production.

“The oil and gas industry’s immense contribution to our skills base, industrial capacity and strength as an exporter are pivotal as we rebalance our economy. Today’s summit underlines the government’s commitment to making the UK a great place for energy firms to do business, develop new technologies and recruit the best technicians and engineers," said Vince Cable.

Energy and cimate change secretary, Ed Davey, welcomed the announcement of the Cygnus deal: “The North Sea remains a vital source of the nation’s energy security and our expertise is renowned the world over. The government is determined to maintain the best possible investment environment to ensure we capitalise fully on this national asset.

“There continues to be significant interest in the annual licensing rounds, with interest in established and the new frontier West of Shetland," he added.

Versalis, Italy's largest chemical producer, is today announcing investment of between €50 and €60m in the development and expansion of elastomer production capacity at its Grangemouth site in Scotland in order to service the automotive tyre market. Its UK subsidiary, Polimeri Europa UK Ltd, is the beneficiary of a £600,000 Regional Selective Assistance grant awarded on the basis of creating 20 new jobs.

Other jobs are being created by Neftex, an Oxfordshire-based geology consultancy that helps oil, gas and mineral exploration companies, and Tangent Technologies Limited is to create two new jobs in Plymouth, Devon as a result of new oil contracts in Australia. Finally, Melrose Resources plc has been granted a six-year concession for natural gas extraction at the Kavarna East field in the Bulgarian Black Sea.

Story: David Thorpe, News Editor

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