HELPING to prevent disasters in the oil and gas industry has brought a North-East firm the highest business accolade and a growing order book.

Ikon GeoPressure provides expert consultancy to companies across the world so that oil and gas wells can be drilled safely.

Steve Jenkins, the firm’s senior vice president, cites the example of the BP Deepwater Horizon incident off the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, where a fire on the oil platform caused the largest offshore oil spill in US history, as the type of disaster his 30-strong team works to avoid.

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The business based on the outskirts of Durham City has been handed a 2014 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of its pioneering work and strong business performance which has seen overseas earnings leap by 771 per cent over the last six years.

Since being set up in 1997 as Durham University spinoff company led by Professor Richard Swarbrick called Geopressure Technology. It now exports to 22 countries.

The firm, now part of the Ikon Science group, provides specialist software, consultancy and studies to predict subsurface pressures developers might encounter during drilling and exploration.

“We are so proud of the Queen’s Award. It is a fitting reward for the work our people have done in building a business valued around the world,” said Mr Jenkins.

The company, which turned over about £5.7m last year, expects to show a modest rise this year, but Mr Jenkins predicts its client base will expand significantly in the coming years following investment to expand its range of services.

“We are targeting markets in South America, but there are opportunities pretty much wherever we look.

There is a lot of demand from oil and exploration companies to improve the safety of their operations and we provide market-leading solutions.”

Mr Jenkins said the company has worked with UK Trade & Investment to develop its export strategy and he believed adding a Queen’s Award to its list of achievements would help it make an even greater contribution to the North-East export drive.