Aberdeen firm leads with windfarm ship
AN ABERDEEN company is developing a new generation offshore windfarm installation ship that draws on the success of oil and gas construction practices.
Moreover, W3G Marine (W3GM) and Dutch shipyard/specialist engineering group IHC Merwede have agreed to collaborate on the development of W3GM's patented design for the concept vessel, known as OWTIS (offshore wind turbine installation ship).
If all goes to plan, the first of the class could be built and ready for service at the start of 2014, ahead of the UK's huge Round Three offshore wind projects.
The project's partners say the OWTIS concept has major advantages over existing assets, not least its ability to improve offshore safety by allowing fewer tasks to be performed offshore.
They say that, because it does not rely on jacking feet to enhance stability, it is more environmentally responsible as there is no contact with the seabed.
Moreover, OWTIS has been designed to operate in harsh weather and deploy large loads. The concept is not limited by water depth and is readily transferable to the oil and gas heavy-lift market. Indeed, its profile already resembles a number of vessels already built by IHC Merwede for that market.
W3GM is currently marketing a design that is 194.5m long, by 38m wide and with an 8m draft. It features a cargo deck of 4,500sq m in area, a 1,500-tonne crane and accommodation for 110 personnel.
The crane is described as "unique". The 1,500-tonne unit will, when used in conjunction with a patented lift system, enable fully assembled wind turbines to be installed in one lift on to pre-installed foundations.
W3GM and IHC Merwede say their vessel will "reduce the cost of installing offshore wind turbines (and foundations) by at least one third compared to current methods".
If so, then the work carried out by W3GM further vindicates claims laid by the private-public catalyst Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group for the past decade, that much of the offshore oil and gas expertise resident in Europe's energy capital is wholly relevant to maritime renewables.
Indeed, the firm was founded by three engineers from the offshore construction industry. Alan West, John Giles and Paul Wilson already claim a successful track record of developing, building and operating offshore construction vessels.
Mr West, W3GM's chief executive, said: "OWTIS will bring an industry-changing initiative to the way offshore wind turbines are installed. This will be achieved through the application of innovative design and operational expertise to significantly improve safety, minimise environmental impact, work in harsher weather and deeper waters and reduce installation costs by at least a third."
The project's partners say they are committed to completing the engineering design phase by the end of November.
This would allow a vessel to be delivered by the end of 2013, making it available for the 2014 season.
IHC Merwede is regarded as a global market leader for efficient dredging and mining vessels and equipment - with vast experience accumulated over decades - and a reliable supplier of complex integrated ships and supplies for offshore construction.
The company has a reputation for delivering on time and to a fixed price. It has committed "significant internal resources" to jointly complete the design with W3GM, and as a result the ship will be built in one of IHC Merwede's shipyards.
IHC Merwede's president, Govert Hamers, said: "This vessel will set a new standard for productivity in the offshore wind turbine installation market, and is an example of the co-operation between W3GM's design and IHC Merwede's integrated service teams. This will provide the platform to develop a world-beating offshore construction asset."
Meanwhile, US oil field services major Baker Hughes has taken delivery of what it bills a "state-of-the-art" fracturing and stimulation vessel.
The 91m (300ft) Blue Tarpon ranks as one of the world's largest stimulation vessels and the seventh ship in the Baker Hughes fleet.
It is designed to provide high-volume stimulation treatments for offshore operations.
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