Having developed a range of technologies specifically designed for the nuclear sector, Forth Engineering now has its sights set on saving time, money and lives across the energy industry as a whole.

Based in Cumbria, the UK firm’s product range comprises robots, which it claims have the potential to save millions while also preventing fatal accidents, able to perform everything from oil pipeline fixes to hazardous underwater work.

Having deployed these solutions in the nuclear industry, the company now seeks to expand its remit, backed by Innovate UK, a government agency with a £400m ($487m) budget designed to accelerate the growth of tech in the country.

Mark Telford, Forth’s managing director, said: “We have developed a range of robotic solutions for harsh environments which have been successfully used in the nuclear sector in the UK.

“There’s a fantastic opportunity for other businesses and organisations in the UK and across the world, whether that’s other nuclear, oil and gas, renewables, agriculture or perhaps areas we haven’t even thought of, to make use of that technology.

“These tools have already been developed for, and used by the Sellafield nuclear site, to successfully solve challenges in the nuclear industry.

“They are tried and tested in harsh environments, and there are industries all over the world which face their own similar issues.

“At the moment, they may see their only solution as sending a person into that extremely hazardous area.

“But that costs a huge amount of money, takes a lot of time, and is, by the very nature of the situation, putting people at risk.”


Forth Engineering: Going global

Forth has built its business on designing and manufacturing a range of robots used to provide solutions for the UK’s nuclear industry.

These robots have a range of capabilities — all proved in harsh environments — which seek to limit the exposure people in the sector have to its numerous risky and dangerous situations.

They are able to access any given location — on land, or underwater — and through pumping, cutting, digging, or holding, remove or move objects without the need for human intervention.

Because they are fitted with advanced cameras and lighting, they can be remotely controlled from a safe location, keeping employees out of harm’s way.

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One of Forth’s robot products, designed to perform clean-up operations in one of Sellafield’s nuclear fuel storage ponds (Credit: Forth)

Now Forth wants to offer its technologies to other businesses, and claims it is capable of tailoring them depending on the customer’s need.

Telford said: “We are very keen to talk to any businesses or organisations who are faced with that type of challenge and discuss with them that there might be a better way.

“All the products we have manufactured can be adapted to provide a solution for a business’ particular challenge.

“So we would far rather those businesses talked to us and shared what their own particular issues are. That way we can see if we can help them.

“Because, at the end of the day, that business might be able to save time, money and potentially save lives, just by talking to us and sharing with us the issue they face.”


Enabling wider innovation

In a bid to encourage technological innovation in the energy industry on a wider scale, Forth has also made available its testing pond for businesses and organisations seeking to carry out research and development.

The 22.5-metre-long, 10-metre-wide and 6-metre-deep facility, which holds 1.2million litres of water, is one of the largest wet test locations in the UK.

It is currently used by Malta-based EM&I group, a global organisation providing support services to the oil, gas and energy industries — which has offices in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Malta, South Africa, UK and the US.

The company’s equipment and training manager Peter Gresty said: “The pond at Forth in Maryport is ideal for us — we use it to carry out many aspects of our technological development.

“The facilities are unique and we really value being able to use the pond as it helps us to be innovative and stay ahead of the game when it comes to our technical development — the team at Forth are also very accommodating and great to work with.”

Telford says there’s scope for other businesses and organisations to be making use of the facility.

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Another of Forth’s remote robots, which carries out work underwater and can be fitted with a range of tools including lights and cameras (Credit: Forth)

He said: “As well as wet work, there’s an area for a dry work as well, so it’s ideal for companies and organisations to use for testing equipment, or for divers, or any business or organisation involved in underwater operations.

“It is the perfect place to test new technology — we also have conference rooms for companies to use while they are here testing their equipment so it means they can be time-efficient while they are on site.”

Forth claims all the developments being made at the company are in line with the strategy of Sellafield and those driving the wider Cumbrian economy to ensure a diversification of businesses in the supply chain, which will bring long-term sustainable benefits.

Telford added: “We have made that transition — we firmly believe that collaboration is the best way to do business.

“The ‘no man technology’ we have developed for the nuclear industry has been about removing the need to put people into hazardous environments and providing a cost-effective solution.

“There is an opportunity for a whole range of industries, businesses and organisations to use that technology.

“We would encourage businesses to come to us, to contact us, with their problems and we will look at providing a solution.”