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Welsh firm wins hot contract in Russian oilfield

One of Russia's most ambitious and controversial energy projects will use Welsh fire safety technology in a "seven-figure" link-up with Pontypool-based Flamgard.

Its products will protect staff extracting oil and gas in sub-zero temperatures on the island of Sakhalin, north of Japan.

The $20bn venture made headlines worldwide last month when Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom wrested control of holding company Sakhalin Energy from Anglo-Dutch operator Shell.

Flamgard is now expecting to significantly increase staff and expand its premises, and is seeking a bigger presence in the international energy market and the UK nuclear sector.

Flamgard, formed in 1981, designs and manufactures ventilation and fire damper products. It struck the deal with assistance from the overseas trade arm of the Welsh Assembly Government, International Business Wales (IBW).

Peter Huxford, operations director, said the Russian oil and gas market was immense and the contract highly significant.

Flamgard employs 26 people but predicts a workforce expansion of at least 30%.

It is one of a small number of manufacturers which can meet the latest Russian safety specifications. The technology is designed to ensure that a fire would be prevented from spreading between neighbouring areas of the facilities.

They also had to convince the buyers that the technology will operate in temperature of -48C.

Flamgard has a strong reputation for providing safety equipment in shipyards in South Korea, Singapore and the Middle East. They aim to transfer this expertise to the UK nuclear market, which they predict will be "busy".

Mr Huxford said, "We have the technical capabilities."

He said its Welsh location did not hinder global operations, and applauded the state aid available.

"The documentation associated with a major contract such as this is detailed and complex and the Assembly's International business Wales team provided us with invaluable support in evaluating and interpreting the terms and conditions within the contract document," he said.

"We aim to win further new business by attending important world-wide trade exhibitions with support from IBW as these events are attended by key players in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries. We also aim to move into new markets such as the nuclear and water treatment sectors."

Another area the company may target is water treatment.

The business's achievement won praise from Andrew Davies, Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks.

Describing it as a "small, smart company that invested in research and development", he said, "Flamgard is one of many highly specialised companies in Wales developing niche products and providing world-class expertise enabling them to trade and compete successfully internationally.

"Developing the export potential of Welsh companies is a key area for the Assembly Government and IBW was established to enable businesses to reach new overseas markets and help them win new business.

"Russia presents a major new market opportunity for companies particularly those working in the petrochemical, oil and gas industry but it can prove difficult to get a foothold into this market which is why I am particularly pleased the Assembly was able to provide support for Flamgard to win this significant contract."

© Western Mail

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