N. Sea operators and offshore wind parc developers warned to watch out for migrating munitions

UXB at seaOffshore wind parc developers and oil and gas operators are failing to fully consider the – literally – explosive potential effects of vintage unexploded bombs rolling around the sea-bed.

The stark warning of the real risk from wartime munitions migrating from their recorded positions during the operations and maintenance phases of oil and gas rigs, as well as foundations and support sub-structures for wind turbines, was issued by 6 Alpha Associates – a specialist offshore consultancy.

6 Alpha managed the unexploded ordnance (UXO) risks for three-quarters of all Round 3 UK offshore wind projects – including the Beatrice site in the Moray Firth for SSE – and has assessed these risks for more than 40 offshore wind parcs around the UK.

Whilst it is commonplace to carry out sea-bed surveys to identify and make-safe potential UXO risks before offshore consruction work starts, the natural movement of wave and tidal currents can cause unexploded ordnance to drift too close to offshore installations.

Simon Cooke, Managing Director, 6 Alpha Associates, explained: “While the UXO risk threat is commonly well managed and monitored throughout the development phase, it is our experience that some project construction teams are failing to handover and share key UXO information to inbound operations and maintenance teams.

“Despite an excellent approach to continuous learning, health and safety and cost reduction in the construction phase, as projects become operational and the personnel teams change, there is a risk of failure to pass on some of the most important ris- management data.

“This is certainly the case in our specialist area of expertise, offshore UXO risk management, where once development teams have often reduced the UXO risk to as low as reasonably practicable, the issue is widely regarded as having been dealt with for the remainder of the project lifecycle.  

“Of course, with the tendency of some types of ordnance to move around the seabed, this certainly isn’t the case, and project managers should ensure that UXO risks are not only registered and mitigated throughout all subsequently operations and maintenance work to reduce the risks to personnel on site and to avoid expensive delays and down-time.

“To date, development cycles have enabled offshore wind farm construction teams to better understand the first three years of a typical 25-year project. As the focus for offshore wind moves towards cutting the cost of electricity generation, enhancing the understanding of munition migration is imperative”.

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