Nfld. & Labrador

DF Barnes goes global with move into wind farm industry

Newfoundland fabrication company DF Barnes has bought a Scottish company that builds jackets for huge wind turbines.

St. John's-based firm buys Scottish fabrication sites, with 1,300 new workers

BiFab site in Methil, Scotland. The site manufactures jackets for wind turbines. (Offshorewind.com)

Newfoundland company DF Barnes is going international.

The company, known for its construction and fabrication work in the province's offshore oil industry, announced Tuesday that it has bought Scotland's BurntIsland Fabrications, or BiFab.

BiFab has been a major player in the U.K. oil and gas sector for 25 years, and over the last five years or so got involved in renewable energy by building large jackets for wind turbines to be used in offshore wind farms.

"These are huge structures, about the same height potentially as some of our offshore structures like Herbon, only they're steel," DF Barnes spokesman Sean Power told CBC News from Scotland.

It's a big deal for the company, he said.

"Allowing us to branch into the renewable sector just provides a significant new avenue of business for us. And new opportunities both in the North Sea as well as the North Atlantic Seaboard."

Sean Power, vice-president of DF Barnes, says the purchase of the Scottish company presents a 'significant new avenue of business.' (Terry Roberts/CBC)

BiFab currently has about 1,300 workers spread across three fabrication sites in Methil, Burnt Island and Arnish in Scotland. 

The company has had success over the years but recently ran into some challenges with its wind turbine contracts. The Scottish government stepped in to provide financial assistance, Power said, and DF Barnes was able to close the deal to take over the company after 18 months of talks.

Power said there is no plan to overhaul staff and operations at BiFab, and that DF Barnes has complete confidence in the workforce there.

"We're really impressed with the management and the workforce," he said.

"So we'll be maintaining and keeping those and we'll be offering whatever support we can from DF Barnes and DFB Driver teams."

Attempt to lease Bull Arm site

DF Barnes might be moving across the Atlantic, but the company is still eager to expand operations in its home province.

Four companies have responded to a request for proposals to lease the idle Bull Arm fabrication site in Trinity Bay. (Nalcor Energy)

It's one of two firms vying to operate Nalcor's dormant fabrication facility at Bull Arm, where ExxonMobil recently wrapped up construction of the Hebron offshore platform.

Power wouldn't get into specifics as to what DF Barnes would do with Bull Arm if it is the successful bidder, as it's still under negotiations. But he did say the BiFab acquisition does bolster its proposal to take over the Trinity Bay site.

"One doesn't necessarily depend on the other but we certainly believe it strengthens the opportunity for us in Bull Arm and strengthens our opportunity for increased workload in Bull Arm."

About the Author

Geoff Bartlett

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Geoff Bartlett is an educator and journalist in Corner Brook.

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