Sheffield firm tooled up for jobs boost

Cutting & Wear, Cowley Way. Picture: Andrew Roe
Cutting & Wear, Cowley Way. Picture: Andrew Roe
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A Sheffield engineering firm is set to receive a £1.65million grant to complete a revolutionary oil well tool that is forecast to result in the company growing more than tenfold.

Cutting and Wear of Ecclesfield is planning to build a new factory to manufacture the iDisc device which is set to receive the ultimate vote of confidence - a massive grant from the European Commission to take it to market. That market is forecast to be worth £133m-a-year. The firm currently turns over £10m.

Andy Ollerenshaw, technical director, said it was set to be “transformational.”

“It’s the biggest thing to happen to the firm and we have been in the oil industry for 45 years.

“We moved in to our purpose-built facilities three years ago. Now we are planning to build another site.

“We envisage an ultimate market of 200m euros-a-year. It would be great to be able to accomplish that.”

The iDisc overcomes the dreaded problem of a stuck drill bit, which might be more than two miles underground.

The device is positioned about 200ft back from the bit and once activated disconnects from the ‘bottom hole assembly’ so crews can retrieve hundreds of sections of pipe and start again.

Packed with sensors, it is easily operated from the surface by workers and is set to replace costly, or dangerous methods including explosives and acids so strong they can only be handled by specialists.

Andy said: “The bottom hole assembly might be worth $2m but an offshore operation might cost $500,000-a-day to run.

“With our tool you can make the decision quickly. If the drill is stuck the iDisc goes into listening mode. After two hours disconnection can be triggered with a signal from the team at the surface.

“We are trying to make it foolproof.”

The project launched after an oil worker with a drilling operator in Scotland approached the company with an idea. Cutting and Wear ploughed £800,000 into a prototype - including £200,000 from the Government’s Technology Strategy Board - and set up a joint venture, Intelligent Drilling Tools, to market the device.

It applied to the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The £1.65m grant is set for final approval on February 16 and – matched with £750,000 of the firm’s own money – will fund two more years of development, creating 10 jobs.

Andy said: “We have a reputation for helping entrepreneurs. We’ve helped build ideas into a new product a number of times. But this will move us up the supply chain from sub-contractor making downhole tools to a manufacturer.”

More than 50 per cent of turnover is exported to more than 50 countries. The firm won a Queen’s Award for Export in 1991.