Company dreamt up over pints of Guinness lands agreement to bring 3D laser technology to the oil and gas sector

The team at Advanced 3D Laser Solutions

The team at Advanced 3D Laser Solutions - Credit: Archant

An Essex company has just landed a lucrative deal to make oil tanks and pipes safer, using cutting edge 3D laser technology.

Advanced 3D Solutions (ALS), a laser surveying company based in the Innovation Unit of Anglian Ruskin University in Chelmsford, has just secured the lucrative deal with a Dutch independent tank storage company.

ALS’s commercial director Colin Pittman explained that he came up with the idea for his company four years ago “over pints of Guinness” with the company’s other two directors at a pub in their local village of Stock.

While Mr Pittman’s background is in the media, his co-founders were engineers with the right technical experience.

“Laser scanning has been around for a number of years, but mainly in the construction industry,” he explained. “We realised that in the oil and gas industry there has been lots of focus on safety, especially since the Buncefield fire disaster.

“But no one had yet got hold of laser technology in the oil and gas industry.”

The Buncefield explosion, which overwhelmed 20 large storage tankers near Hemel Hempstead in 2005, was reported to be heard from as far away as Belgium and sent shockwaves through the oil and gas industry.

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“The laser technology really helps to make sure that the tanks and also pipes are integral and safe,” Mr Pittman explained.

“We gather data safely and quickly, and the technology is only going to get better.”

ALS landed the lucrative agreement with the Dutch company after attending the trade show StocExpo 2018 in Rotterdam, with support from the Department for International Trade.

The Dutch company has enlisted ALS to scan their global network of terminals across the world over the next five years, starting in the Netherlands.

While ALS’s turnover last year was £600,000 and in the current year is just over the million mark, Mr Pittman expects it to grow to more than £2.5m within the next year.

ALS’s other clients include GFK, and Mr Pittman is currently also in talks with Shell.

“We are still a small company, but our potential to grow is huge,” said Mr Pittman. “What we offer is quite unique in the industry.”

For the time being, ALS will focus on maintaining and growing their 10-strong team in Essex, but there are also plans to station a team in the Netherlands. He hopes to double the number of staff within the next 18 months. “We will bring in people of a young age and train them up, because there are not many people out there who are qualified to do what we do,” he explained. “Its more cost effective for us that way.”

When he isn’t busy forging new business with ALS, Mr Pittman is often helping his wife, the Soprano singer Jackie Pittman, who goes by the professional name Jackie Pittman Sings, behind the scenes with her business - “but not so many concerts these days, because I’m too busy with ALS,” he says.