The floating wind market is set to drive demand for under-utilised anchor handling tug supply (AHTS) vessels, but demand will only seriously begin to pick up in 2024/25 when commercial-scale projects get going, experts discussed at Riviera’s webinar Floating windfarms: the new driver of the AHTS market?
Larger, more powerful anchor handlers may seem over-specified when it comes to the floating wind market, but it is not just a question of installed power: deck space and the size of chain lockers on board will make larger vessels more attractive than smaller ones.
There will also be a market for smaller anchor handlers and anchor handling tugs in the floating wind sector, but bigger ships will be able to undertake projects more quickly and efficiently.
These were among the key takeaways from Riviera’s 20 January 2021 webinar Floating windfarms: the new driver of the AHTS market? The webinar, sponsored by Maritime Strategies International, formed part of Riviera’s latest Offshore Wind Webinar Week.
Panellists taking part in the event included Maritime Strategies International (MSI) senior offshore analyst Dr Ferenc Pasztor; Acteon Group head of renewables and mooring development Tom Fulton; Maersk Supply Service floating wind solution director Yvan Leyni; and Aker Offshore Wind senior engineer, marine operations Christophe Bekhouche.
As Dr Pasztor noted, the offshore oil and gas sector has long been the exclusive drive of demand for anchor handling vessels, but demand for these expensive assets plunged in 2014 when the oil price fell. Demand has failed to make a significant recovery since but the floating wind market – which is evolving from small-scale demonstration projects to large-scale commercial projects – is expected play a growing role in the supply and demand equation.
In the floating wind segment, anchor handlers will be required to preinstall moorings and anchors, tow floating foundations, hook up floating foundations to moorings, install dynamic cables, carry out inspection and maintenance and assist during decommissioning operations.
Analysis by MSI suggests that demand for anchor handlers in this new market will pick up significantly in the mid-2020s as huge projects get underway in countries such as South Korea. This will improve AHTS utilisation and, combined with demand in the offshore oil and gas industry, it will drive up rates.
Newbuild anchor handlers should not be expected in the short-term, said Dr Pasztor, but he highlighted that, in the latter part of the decade, when demand is expected to be growing strongly, the average age of the AHTS fleet will be high. Will clients in the renewable energy business be happy to contract older vessels, he asked?
Mr Fulton said around 40 floating wind turbines might be installed in 2021-22, and more than 100 in 2023-24. He said estimates of floating wind capacity expected by 2030 vary widely, between 5 GW of floating wind capacity and 30 GW by that date. That might mean installing anything from 500 to 3,000 floating wind turbines, and 2,000 to 12,000 mooring lines.
“Between 2025 and 2030, there will be a lot more pace in the market,” said Mr Fulton. Mr Pasztor suggested that between 2030 and 2040, the floating wind market will be as important to owners of anchor handlers as the oil and gas segment.
Delegates participating in the webinar questioned whether a 12,000-bhp anchor handler was over-specified for floating wind work, but panellists agreed that it is not just a question of installed power and bollard pull: what will enable anchor handlers to complete large projects quickly and efficiently is large deck space, and large chain lockers of the type that smaller vessels do not have. And as the market moves into deeper waters, so larger chain lockers and the ability to carry as many mooring lines as possible will be increasingly important.
In a poll conducted during the webinar, delegates were split between those who see the best opportunities for cost reduction in floating wind from the use of larger, more powerful vessels, and those who believe smaller vessels and innovative approaches such as cross-tensioning would be a better driver of cost reduction. There was no consensus on whether floating wind in Asia would generate activity for the fleet of anchor handlers in the North Sea, where most high-spec units are based.
Around 70% of those polled said they believe the existing AHTS fleet is sufficiently large to meet demand in the offshore oil and gas and floating wind markets.
Asked which AHTS capabilities would be the dominant driver in the development of commercial floating windfarms, 41% said opted for deck space. 28% said chain locker capacity would be the most dominant driver, with only 15% selecting bollard pull as the most important vessel characteristic.
Panellists included Maritime Strategies International senior offshore analyst Dr Ferenc Pasztor; Acteon Group head of renewables and mooring development Tom Fulton; Maersk Supply Service floating wind solution director Yvan Leyni; and Aker Offshore Wind senior engineer, marine operations Christophe Bekhouche