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Anger as Fife’s BiFab overlooked for work on neighbouring wind farm in favour of Chinese company

The BiFab yard in Methil.
The BiFab yard in Methil.

All of the turbine jackets for Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm will be fabricated thousands of miles from the North Sea despite a Government-supported bid by Fife’s BiFab.

The firm has failed to win any work on the multi-billion pound Seagreen offshore wind farm project, located just a few miles from its yards in Burntisland and Methil.

A Chinese yard will fabricate 84 of the 114 turbine jackets for the project, which will then be shipped to the North Sea.

The Scottish Government campaigned for BiFab to win the work, but operator SSE Renewables said the gap between BiFab’s submission and the foreign rivals was “too significant to close”.

The location of the Seagreen offshore wind farm

The news follows the earlier award of 30 jackets to UAE-headquartered firm Lamprell for the development, which is located 27km from the Angus coast and will have its operations and maintenance base at the Port of Montrose.

BiFab union GMB Scotland claimed the news showed Scotland’s ambitions for green jobs were failing.

Organiser Hazel Nolan said: “We would warn industry majors like SSE and the governments at Holyrood and Westminster that constant disappointment is now turning to growing anger.

“Communities dependent on offshore wind fabrication contracts like Burntisland and Methil are being totally failed, and so is the country.

“The public have been consistently lied to for the last decade over the prospects for green jobs in Scotland and across the rest of the UK, from the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewables’ to the ‘green jobs revolution’, while the bulk of the manufacturing contracts are awarded to anywhere but here.

BiFabs yard in Methil.

“Scraps off the table from our own offshore wind sector is bad enough but when billion pound fabrication contracts are wholly completed abroad and then shipped to the waters off Scotland, you know that any credible prospects for a green economic recovery are sailing by.”

US engineering group Fluor Corporation confirmed that its Chinese joint venture COOEC-Fluor Heavy Industries will make the 84 jackets and suction caissons for Seagreen.

SSE Renewables, who sold a 51% stake in the £3 billion project to global oil and gas firm Total in June, said governments needed to “step up” efforts to be competitive on the international stage.

“We wanted nothing more than to award work to a Scottish firm that would help set them up for future success,” the SSE Renewables spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion, the gap between BiFab’s offering and that of competing fabricators was too significant to close.

Montrose Port will benefit from the Seagreen project.

“This is further proof that industry and government need to step up efforts to build an investable, globally competitive UK supply chain, and SSE Renewables remains committed to working closely with the Scottish and UK Governments and other stakeholders to do so.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the decision was “disappointing” and claimed the BiFab bid for this contact was competitive with other UK and European bids.

“Overall, the Seagreen project will still bring economic benefits to Scotland. However, this would have been a good opportunity for SSE to demonstrate its support for the Scottish supply chain and create new jobs across Scotland.

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting growth within the Scottish supply chain and to bringing new projects to Scotland.”

The spokesperson said it showed the Contract for Difference funding scheme – which has driven down the price paid to operators for energy – was in need of reform.

“Whilst this scheme has reduced the cost of offshore wind projects, this is now jeopardising local supply chain companies in Scotland and across the UK securing important contracts,” they added.

BiFab owner DF Barnes said it had made its “very best efforts” in negotiations with the Seagreen project team.

“We are extremely disappointed that the developers have chosen to exclude Scottish yards from any fabrication contracts,” the Canadian firm’s spokesperson said.

“Since acquiring BiFab we have been trying exceptionally hard to get people back to work in our yards.

“Instead SSE, in the face of what could be one of the worst recessions in modern history, has chosen to give all of the fabrication work for one of the largest offshore windfarm projects in the world to companies in China and UAE.

“This is a missed opportunity for Scotland and a matter of deep regret to us and our partners.

“We are still negotiating with EDF and Saipem to secure fabrication work as part of the NnG project and hope to make a positive announcement shortly.”

The new turbine jacket contract was awarded to COOEC-Fluor by Seaway 7, which in June was contracted for the engineering, procurement, construction and installation of the foundations and inter array cables for the project.

Mark Fields, president of Fluor’s energy and chemicals business, said: “Through our joint venture COOEC-Fluor fabrication yard – one of the world’s largest – we will demonstrate Fluor’s commitment to sustainable development by working with Seaway 7 to successfully deliver the jackets and suction caissons for Scotland’s largest wind farm.”