Midstream Energy Firm Buys Famed Harland and Wolff Shipyard

File image courtesy Harland and Wolff

Published Oct 1, 2019 6:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

Midstream natural gas company InfraStrata announced Tuesday that it has agreed to buy the storied Harland and Wolff shipyard out of bankruptcy administration. The purchase gives InfraStrata a fabrication facility, a drydock and a quay in Belfast for work supporting the company's own projects, including the Islandmagee gas storage project in Northern Ireland and a proposed FSRU project off Barrow-in-Furness, England.

The deal saves the jobs of about 80 remaining Harland and Wolff employees. In addition, InfraStrata says that it will hire in several hundred workers over the next five years to support its projects. 

InfraStrata hopes to save 10-15 percent on capital costs for its previously-announced projects by bringing fabrication in-house at Harland and Wolff. It also hopes that the yard will secure its own work in energy, maritime and defense to provide a secondary revenue stream.

Infrastrata has made a down payment of about $615 million to secure the yard. The deal is contingent upon the company securing another $6.8 million in funding to complete the purchase, payable in two tranches due October 31, 2019 and April 30, 2020. InfraStrata's work at the yard will begin this November in preparation for construction of the Islandmagee project, which is scheduled to start in early 2020. 

"Harland and Wolff is a landmark asset and its reputation as one of the finest multi-purpose fabrication facilities in Europe is testament to its highly skilled team in Belfast," said John Wood, the CEO of InfraStrata in a statement. 

The Islandmagee gas storage project is a major undertaking. From a wellhead site, the developers will drill seven boreholes through the bedrock 1,500 meters down into a Permian salt bed strata. At the end of each borehole, they will use seawater to dissolve the salt out progressively to create 180-meter-tall caverns. The entire process is expected to take up to eight years. 

When complete, the facility will be capable of storing up to a total of 500 million cubic meters of gas - fully a quarter of the UK's natural gas storage capacity. The site is convenient for a storage facility, Infrastrata says, as it is adjacent to a large natural gas power plant and to the terminus of the gas pipeline between Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The project is locally controversial, in part due to the salt brine produced from cavern excavation. The concentrated brine will be released into the marine environment at a position about 450 yards offshore. InfraStrata says that the discharge site has been selected carefully to minimize environmental harm.