There are changes afoot in the oil and gas support services industry where forward thinking, marketplace-aligned companies such as Oceaneering Umbilical Solutions, based in Rosyth, Scotland, has extended its current processes and capabilities to move seamlessly into the offshore renewable energy market supply chain. In this sector the next five years are expected to bring about some of the biggest opportunities for those supply chain companies that have traditionally serviced the UK sector of the North Sea since the heady days of the oil and gas boom in the 1970s and 1980s
Currently, projections by the UK Government predict the offshore renewable energy industry to bring over 4.4 GW of new capacity online over the next five years. So, for many companies steeped in the origins of offshore oil and gas and with a strong understanding of the technological challenges of supporting offshore subsea technologies, the possibilities to support such a growing level of activity in the renewables market are there to be maximised
Indeed, much of this additional activity moving into renewable energy, particularly offshore wind, is already happening. Organisations like Subsea UK, which represents the subsea industry, are seeing many of their members' businesses now focused on renewables and that figure is only likely to increase in the coming years.
Companies are struck by the remarkable similarities between the engineering, manufacturing, logistics and project management skills required to support an offshore oil and gas installation and what’s needed to support an offshore wind farm. These engineering and project management skills built up over decades in offshore oil and gas are readily transferable to wind energy.
And that is precisely the forward thinking strategy that has been adopted by Oceaneering, a company with a rich vein of history in the global offshore industry and one of the sector’s key providers of engineered services and products.
Its UK cable manufacturing subsidiary, Oceaneering Umbilical Solutions, has the capacity to produce around 500 km of ‘engineered to order’ umbilical cabling per annum. This cabling knowledge and capacity can as easily be turned to the production of large subsea power cables for offshore energy projects as it can for the more established oil and gas projects that the site in Scotland has dealt with for over 25 years.
The management at the Rosyth plant has spent considerable time carrying out an intensive period of market research through talking to the offshore renewable energy developers and government industry sector organisations involved in the various licensing rounds, to ensure its market entry strategies and investment costs were justified. At the same time it continued to refine and scale its business approach to this new market model.
With this research phase now complete, Oceaneering is confident that it already has the capabilities necessary to be a significant UK based provider of subsea power cables to the market. Furthermore, it believes that there are very few companies that have the capacity and capability to expand with this market over the next five years or so.
Mark Cumming, general manager of Oceaneering’s facility in Rosyth explains: “Like many companies, Oceaneering recognises the growing international opportunities that alternative and sustainable energy sources will provide for our future needs, and the company has taken the decision to extend its capability to service the multiple offshore renewable energy projects planned for the UK and European coasts between now and 2020.
“We’re completing our move into the offshore renewable energy cabling sector and we believe we are well positioned to support the aspirations of the offshore renewable energy industry as the larger Round 2/2.5 and Round 3 installations move from planning into execution. We anticipate that from 2012 onwards is when the market will start to be supply capacity driven on subsea power cables. Oceaneering in Rosyth will play a major role for the UK supply base in filling that capacity from 2012 onwards.
“Scottish Enterprise, Fife Development and Crown Estates have given us great support in helping to explore possibilities with the offshore developers, and we are currently in discussion with a number of major developers about opportunities within current projects they are undertaking.”
The developers - usually energy utilities suppliers - are responsible for the creation of these offshore fields, where they will establish an offshore field ‘collection hub’ to collect the electrical energy generated from the installed turbines. In the Round 3 developments for offshore wind, these developments are very large indeed with some ranging towards the 700 to 1000 individual turbine level. These quantities of turbines require hundreds of kilometres of array power cables to connect them all together and to the ‘collection hubs’.
Depending on the sea topography, developers might arrange wind turbines in a variety of layouts from daisy chains to fan shapes or triangular groups. Whichever field studylayout is selected, the individual turbines are positioned anything up to one km apart, so this is where the very large lengths of subsea array cable are required. It is important to understand that as well as being very long lengths, these array cables also are significant in terms of weight and can be upwards of 2000 to 3000 tonnes or more depending on the lengths required.
This is one area where the Rosyth plant has a significant advantage over some of its competitors based on its already significant cable handling and specialised storage equipment capacity.
Wind energy is now seen as the EU’s fastest growing energy source and the UK has been the biggest offshore wind producer in the world. It is expected to hold over a third of the total offshore wind resource for the entire continent of Europe, and so to harness this vast supply the UK has made huge advances in its wind power capability in recent years and will build further on the country’s offshore wind development programme. Wind turbines have the potential to generate up to a quarter of Britain’s electricity needs.
As a highly experienced (over 30 years in the subsea cabling industry), highly capable (three plants around the world - Brazil, Florida and Scotland - all specialising in subsea cabling), yet new entrant into this market, the potential for Oceaneering Rosyth to be a supply chain leader of subsea array cabling for offshore renewable energy developments (wind/wave/tidal) is a very exciting prospect for the UK from a local supply chain perspective of highly specialised and capital intensive products, as well as for Oceaneering itself in terms of business security and growth.
Mark adds: “Having made a strategic decision to move seamlessly into the offshore renewables energy sector, we now find ourselves in a rapidly expanding industry where there are only a very few specialist companies that have the level of expertise and manufacturing, and logistics equipment that Oceaneering can bring to this dynamic industry.” Oceaneering Umbilical Solutions
Oceaneering Umbilical Solutions is a world leader in the design and manufacture of subsea control umbilicals for a range of offshore applications. As a market leader the business manufactures umbilicals, electric cables, high collapse resistant flexible pipes, steel tubes and hybrid combinations for all types of subsea systems.
For further information please visit:www.oceaneering.com/subsea-products/umbilical-solutions