Norwegian EPCI contractor eyes east coast turbine installation opportunities
Established and less established owners are jockeying for position in the US offshore wind market, developing designs and concept of operations that meet the requirements of the Jones Act. Among them is Havfram, recently rebranded from Ocean Installer, a well-known provide of subsea services in the offshore oil and gas market.
Established a little over a decade ago and wholly owned by HitecVision, Havfram had its busiest year ever in 2020, working on several projects concurrently with over a 1,000 vessel days executed in the subsea umbilical, risers and flowlines market, mooring, inspection, maintenance and repair markets, not to mention decommissioning.
Be that as it may, it is from the renewables market that Havfram chief executive Odd Strømsnes believes much more of its high-value work will come from in future.
Mr Strømsnes believes it is important for Norwegian industry to supplement its traditional business offerings with new opportunities. With that in mind, Havfram is developing an innovative turbine installation vessel concept with Norwegian ship designer and builder Vard.
Fellow Norwegian company OHT has already invested in a semi-submersible foundation installation vessel, but Mr Strømsnes and his colleagues believe the concept of a semi-submersible vessel that is also capable of jacking up is equally applicable to turbine installation, not least because of the very stable platform it provides. .
And, as Mr Strømsnes explains, although it is designed to work in the US – a Jones Act market – the vessel would not need to be built in the US, because it would be fed by low-cost, US-built feeder vessels and would not actually transport turbines to and from points in the US itself.
Although Mr Strømsnes did not want to be drawn on the vessel’s concept of operations, it is believed that the ship would install turbines when jacked up, and submerge to take on components from the feeder vessels. Applying this approach, Havfram is already prequalified for several projects.
In the longer term, says Mr Strømsnes, Havfram is also interested in the foundation installation and in the inter-array cable markets. For the time being, the cable-lay sector looks over-supplied, but in the medium-to-long-term, demand is likely to grow considerably.
“We want to avoid the mistakes that were made in the oil and gas vessel market,” he tells OWJ, a market in which consistently high oil prices led to over-investment in vessels, an issue which still plagues it.
“We don’t have much steel on our balance sheet,” Mr Strømsnes says. “That fact has served us well in the downturn. Combine that with our engineering procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) experience and the focus that market demands on QHSE and we believe we are well-placed to enter the turbine installation vessel market as an EPCI contractor.”
Mr Strømsnes has spoken of having the company’s first turbine installation vessel ready for the 2024 construction season and he remains confident the company can make that date. He says Havfram hopes to place a contract for a vessel by mid-2021.
In keeping with the company’s ‘steel light’ approach to vessel ownership, Havfram is talking to interested parties about ownership of the vessel and financing the construction of what would be expensive asset. “There are a number of interested parties out there,” he says. Either way, he says, Havfram won’t place a contract for a vessel until it has a contract for an installation campaign. That might be in the US, or in Europe.
The US east coast is one of the most attractive growth markets for offshore wind in the world, and Equinor’s successful bids in New York’s latest solicitation are a game-changer for its offshore wind business in the US. Projects like Equinor’s Empire Wind 2 and Beacon Wind 1, which won the New York solicitation, could be a game-changer for Havfram too.
If the company’s first installation contract does come from the US market, says Mr Strømsnes, the combination of a high-specification turbine installation vessel able to handle the latest generation of offshore wind turbines – including Vestas’ newly announced 15-MW unit – and low-cost, US-built feeder barges, could be a particularly cost-effective and operationally efficient solution.