WOOD has a won a $20 million (£16m) contract to work on chemicals plants in the southern USA as the firms looks to reduce its reliance on the North Sea oil services market.

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The Aberdeen-based engineering giant has been hired to provide maintenance and project-related services for SNF Floquip at a chemical manufacturing plant in Mississippi and one in Louisiana.

The company beat off competition from rivals to win an initial two-year contract, which could be extended by a year.

“This strategic win signals the expansion of our downstream and chemicals capabilities and growing presence in a key regional market,” said Andrew Stewart, who runs the Wood division that provides support for US facilities.

He noted that Wood reckons it has the expertise to win work from firms in other processing industries in the US.

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Wood has used the skills base it developed providing support for oil and gas firms in the North Sea to help it build a presence in related markets such as refining and petrochemicals production.

The company stepped up efforts to extend its reach into new fields in response to the deep downturn in the North Sea triggered by the sharp fall in the crude price from 2014.

Led by chief executive Robin Watson Wood acquired giant rival Amec Foster Wheeler for £2.2 billion in 2017 to grow its presence in markets such as environmental and infrastructure engineering.

In June Wood said the success of its environment and infrastructure operations in North America had helped it achieve strong growth in first half profits.

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Wood then highlighted signs that oil and gas market activity had been increasing in response to the partial recovery in the crude price from late 2016.