Orkney vessel trials demonstrate cost savings for marine energy

image xScotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, yesterday announced that the first leg of a project in Orkney funded by the Scottish Government has demonstrated the potential for considerable cost savings using the capabilities of smaller support vessels in the marine renewables industry.

The Orkney Vessel Trials project, which has been facilitated by Orkney consultancy Aquatera Ltd, in association with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), was launched by Mr Ewing last year.

Installation, operations, and maintenance are a considerable project cost for wave and tidal developers, alongside managing risk in challenging sea conditions. The objectives of the study were to investigate and trial ways to reduce costs of operations required for the marine energy industry, to demonstrate how a project involving many companies, vessels and people can be carried out to high safety standards, and to demonstrate that vessels available in Orkney waters can carry out complex marine operations efficiently and cost effectively.

The project took place during the quieter winter months in Orkney, with 20 local organisations, and over 120 individuals, working together on over 60 vessel operations.

Close collaboration and cooperation between all parties was key to the project’s success, and although the trials were based in Orkney, the outcomes are transferable to other localities with similar marine opportunities and challenges.

The project comprised a set of six performance trials covering workboat positioning and dynamic loading, gantry barge positioning and device deployment, clump weight friction, ROV operations, responses to man overboard situations in tidal currents, and dynamics of buoy submergence.

The outcomes have now been published to assist project developers in selecting fit-for-purpose and cost-effective vessels for future projects.

One example outcome is that the project demonstrated that marine energy developers could save 70-80% on installation costs by utilising a gantry barge and other local vessels rather than commissioning large dynamically positioned offshore construction vessels.

Following the announcement in his keynote speech at the All-Energy 2014 Conference in Aberdeen, Mr Ewing visited Aquatera’s stand within the Orkney exhibition area to pick up a copy of the published report, and view the video which showcases the achievements of the project.

Mr Ewing remarked:

“The Scottish Government is committed to capitalising on the pioneering research and development work taking place in Orkney.

“In 2013 we provided funding of £1.1 million to EMEC to support a project that would assess the capabilities of the local fleet of vessels within the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters and how these vessels could apply their skills to supporting Scotland’s marine renewables industry.

“Using local vessels to the best of their capabilities not only creates a great local economic impact but provides an important service to the development of the industry, through constant learning and cost reduction”.

Ian Johnstone, Renewable Energy Consultant at Aquatera, and Project Manager welcomed the announcement, stating:

“Aquatera is proud to have successfully developed, supported and delivered this project. The results obtained have clearly shown how locally based solutions can have real benefits for project economics without compromising on quality or safety.

“The trials have also given the opportunity to put into practice some of the ideas and potential solutions that have until now been concepts and ideas.”

Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC added:

“The results from this first project have been very promising, demonstrating just what can be done with our local fleet, and instigating safety enhancements and cost savings for those in the marine renewables industry.

“We’re very grateful for the support provided from the Scottish Government. It is exactly this sort of practical initiative that will enable the industry to develop and bring the rewards of marine energy to Scotland in the coming years.”

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