Smart Damen solutions in the offshore wind industry picked up by the oil and gas sector
After many years of renewables being somewhat the ‘Cinderella’ of the energy industry, it is fascinating to see that it is now offshore wind power driving innovation and its smart solutions are being taken up by the well-established oil and gas sector.
A good example was highlighted recently when Damen’s first Service Operations Vessel (SOV), which was purpose-built for the offshore wind market, entered the oil and gas business on a three-year contract.
The SOV – with Walk-to-Work capability – is dedicated to the transfer and accommodation of offshore personnel but its design was essentially developed from the requirements of the North Sea offshore wind market. The first vessel, Bibby WaveMaster 1, owned by Bibby Marine Services Ltd, was introduced to the market in 2017 and she headed straight to the offshore wind market in the southern North Sea.
However, less than a year later, Bibby WaveMaster 1 will begin a major contract for Total E&P Nederland. Bibby Marine Services announced that Total E&P Nederland will charter the vessel to access gas platforms in the North Sea from April to October this year, but this has now been extended to three years.
Three-year contract for Bibby WaveMaster 1
Although there are many synergies between both offshore industries, Bibby WaveMaster 1 is largely a result of the push for reducing the total cost of wind energy to enable the industry to be less reliant on subsidies.
The vessel underwent rigorous model testing and simulator tests at MARIN in the Netherlands. The gangway motion, vessel hull shape dynamics and the DP system were considered and how these individual components interact with each other. This is crucial to the design and gives the required ‘certainty of access’ to offshore structures in severe weather conditions. A key factor in Bibby WaveMaster 1 is the unique, multi-stop elevator. This is linked to the gangway, so a technician can go from the warehouses or deck level straight upwards on the elevator, over the gangway and directly onto the turbine Transition Piece, without climbing a step.
DP model tests July 2015 MARIN offshore basin
The first subsidy-free wind farms are now a reality and this has been realised over years of improving operations offshore and through cost reduction. As well as this, the wind energy players are more prepared to commit themselves to long-term contracts, making the use of such a tailor-made vessel viable.
These lessons learnt in the renewables sector are now being seen as significant advantages in the oil and gas business too.
Vessel versus helicopter transfer
In the Total case, a vessel solution proves more efficient than the traditional method of transferring personnel offshore by using jack-ups and helicopters when accessing offshore assets for maintenance.
The Damen SOV leads to a significant cost reduction. Helicopters can be a hindrance in that the oil and gas majors have to be able to provide temporary accommodation for technicians for a certain amount of time for cases when the weather is poor. And this requires investment. The helicopter landing platform and related safety equipment has to be maintained.
Also the time on tools is significantly improved when deploying a vessel for maintenance operations. Including the day briefings and the need to pack up the tools and prepare for the arrival of the helicopter to pick technicians up, they may only get 5/6 hours per day out of a 12-hour shift.
Vessel transfers can have a big impact on the total operation and at the same time, safety is not being sacrificed, with reports from the last few years showing that vessel transfers are safer than helicopters.
The comfort, logistics flows and ‘access certainty’ of Bibby WaveMaster 1 are believed to be the key influencers in Total E&P Nederland’s decision, in addition to the well thought out workflows whereby crew and equipment are always separated. Bibby WaveMaster 1 provides accommodation for up to 90 passengers including crew.
The decision from Total E&P also shows a slight move away from the traditional ‘campaign approach’ from the oil the majors, which is particularly prevalent in the North Sea.
An operator would typically consider a walk to work solution for a four-month maintenance campaign; they are not necessarily taking a strategic decision to replace helicopters with vessels. It is usually a balanced mix. But Total has taken a different view.
Damen expects to see the move to choose vessels over helicopters increase in the coming years, especially in the UK and Norwegian sector and believes it will have a significant impact on the cost per day, especially in the context of long-term contracts and throughout the O&M phase of smaller platforms.
Floating crane vessel for foundations
Damen is also playing an active role in accommodating the increasing size of offshore wind foundations. In light of this trend, Damen is committed to developing new solutions for offshore installations.
The company has designed a new floating crane vessel for installing foundations and substations and it is looking to develop this side of the business. As it is patent pending not too many details can be revealed yet, but the vessel has ro-ro capabilities and a large open deck.
Additionally, the shipyard group is aiming to increase its presence in the offshore wind market in the US.
A role in offshore wind in the US
Damen has been active in the US for years through Damen Technical Cooperation (DTC). This enables customers to build a Damen vessel from acquiring just the basic design. Vessels can be built at a local yard based on the proven designs of Damen. Besides that Damen can also provide site assistance to support the yard in the built process.
Damen has already built a substantial number of CTVs, cable layers and SOVs for the offshore wind market. When it comes to an SOV or CTV, owners can have a proven Damen design, developed from Damen’s experience gained in the offshore wind market in the North Sea, but built in a US shipyard. The company is also exploring renewables developments going on in Taiwan and Japan.
Overall, Damen is very positive about the renewables sector and expects to see the industry fully mature in the next decade. And it certainly aims to play a role in its development in the US and beyond.