BiFab’s £14m expansion plan sets platform to create 200 jobs in Fife

Offshore wind manufacturer Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab) is set to create up to 200 jobs in one of the most deprived parts of Fife with a £14 million plan to build two new factories.

BiFab, which makes the giant steel subsea platforms, known as “jackets”, which support offshore wind turbines, is planning to make the investment in Methil if late-stage talks with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government over public subsidies reach a positive conclusion.

BiFab chief executive John Robertson said: “At the moment we have the facilities at Methil and Arnish [on Lewis] to make about 50 or 60 jackets a year.

“We recognise that this is not nearly enough to continue as a key player in the market. That’s why we’re in talks with the government about expanding our facility.”

Methil and the whole Levenmouth area has suffered gravely over the years Tricia Marwick, SNP MSP for Central Fife with half of the investment being the statutory maximum permitted for the east Fife area under the rules of regional selective assistance, Mr Robertson added that he hoped to finalise the deal by the end of March. His company has already received £1.5m from the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. It is not known how much the Scottish authorities are being asked to contribute, but the maximum permitted contribution for the East Fife area is 35%.

Should the deal go ahead, it would take Scottish Enterprise and Fife Council a step closer to realising their ambitions for the 54-hectare area around Methil docklands formerly occupied by Norwegian construction group Kvaerner, which is known as Fife Energy Park.

It would double BiFab’s occupation to about 40% of total potential capacity, leaving it room for future expansion or for the authorities to attract other offshore wind manufacturers to the area. BiFab currently employs around 400 people at the site, which together with the other smaller tenants on site, Duncan Engineering and Profesional Testing Services, is little more than a tenth of Methil’s industrial heyday.

In the 19th century, the town was the largest coal exporting port in Scotland, and was later a major employer in shipbuilding and manufacturing oil and gas platforms.

Mr Robertson added: “When Scottish Enterprise took over the old Kvaerner site in 2006, it was a tremendous move to have that vision, jointly with Fife Council, to try to transform the Methil facility into an energy park in the renewables sector. Based on the Crown Estate’s announcement about [an offshore wind zone in] the Firth of Forth, I am even more convinced that it puts Methil in a strong position.”

Tricia Marwick, SNP MSP for Central Fife, said: “Methil and the whole Levenmouth area has suffered gravely over the years, first of all with the pits closing and then with Kvaerner closing. Now we have a generational opportunity and it’s one that we can’t miss. Methil is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland.”

BiFab made about 60 jackets last year, with customers including the German Alpha Ventus project and the Greater Gabbard project off south east England. It also makes topsides and substructures for oil and gas platforms for clients including BP and Nexen.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Enterprise said: “BiFab is at the heart of developing a globally competitive renewables sector in Scotland, demonstrating huge capability in the potential of offshore wind, wave and tidal power.

“We’ve worked closely with them from the management buy-out in 2001 to help them achieve global growth through innovation, investment and infrastructure development.

“As BiFab’s reputation in the renewables field continues to grow, we’re working alongside them to secure investment and long-term growth.”