By Neil Ritchie

MORE small Taranaki firms – Spill Control NZ and Vortex Dredge Systems – are proving New Zealand oil and gas service companies can take on the world.

Oil & Gas Australia last month featured Taranaki businessman Geoff Murray and his company TDTech offering new specialist subsurface tools direct to the world. Now the magazine takes a look at two other companies that have been designing, fabricating and marketing their own products to the national and international oil and gas sectors for years.

New Plymouth-based companies Spill Control NZ and Vortex Dredge Systems were working independently until recently – Spill Control NZ involved in spill prevention and clean-up equipment, and Vortex with offshore underwater dredge systems.

But now they have joined forces to design and build an oil-sea water separator/oil absorption tool.

Essentially an underwater vacuum cleaner that can collect debris or filter out any oil and other liquid fuels or contaminants, the tool is mounted on and controlled by a remote operated vehicle at water depths of up to 3000 metres or more.

The ‘Marine Guardian’ subsea oil absorption tool system has been built specifically for the purpose of absorbing hydrocarbon-based contaminants, drawing away contaminated water and pumping it through the filter system.

There is no known limit to how much water can be pumped through the filter system.

While Vortex has designed the ROV-based pumping systems for this tool, Spill Control has designed and manufactured the special filter systems for the removal of silts, sands and other contaminants.

“As far as we know there is no other product like this on the market and it has already been successfully used on several offshore, that is overseas, projects,” says Spill Control managing director Jason Sole.

“We design and fabricate in Taranaki but have a global reach,” adds Vortex Dredge Systems managing director Joe Goodin, who first worked on land rigs for several years and then later offshore where he developed an interest in ROV technology.

“I saw the need for some tools that were not on the international market so I designed and fabricated some prototype dredges myself.

“Vortex now has international patents on what I believe is the world’s most powerful four-inch dredge and since 2010 we have had an exclusive contract, supplying our whole range of products, through global equipment rental group Ashtead Technology.”

Ashtead Technology is one of the world’s largest offshore equipment rental companies, with headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland, and branches in Houston and Singapore, as well as agents in Perth and Stavanger, Norway.

Vortex now has two-inch, four-inch and six-inch dredge systems – both hydraulic and electric – designed for both deep and shallow waters for use with ROV or divers.

Ashtead Technology does the logistics, interfacing and distribution between customers, while Vortex provides the technical back-up, checks and training for the equipment that is rented out around the world.

Spill Control NZ, meanwhile, has also been developing and supplying spill kits, onshore bunding systems, oil containment booms, various fuel and chemical absorbents, industrial oil skimmers, waste disposal and remediation solutions, booms, spill response training and environmental consultancy services.

Both managing directors were raised on Taranaki dairy farms and say the “can do” attitude of many farmers contributes to the on-going success of their respective businesses.

Vortex and Spill Control NZ have already had some exports of their specialist ROV operated oil filtration systems to Aberdeen and Houston and the joint venture is looking forward to penetrating the vast global oil and gas sector further.

“We don’t offer high volumes of low value products but rather low volumes of high value products that are becoming increasingly necessary in this world of heightened environmental awareness,” Mr Sole said.