The cross-pollination of ideas and technology between offshore wind and oil and gas benefits both sectors
Whether they are working in the offshore oil and gas sector or in offshore renewables, North Sea operators often require vessels with similar characteristics. But regardless of whether they are active in the fossil fuel or renewables spaces, the vessels need to move crews and equipment to the work site and provide a safe and stable work platform in the face of bad weather and rough seas.
These shared requirements have resulted in many operational and design lessons being traded between the sectors, such as “walk-to-work” crew transfer systems that are increasing in popularity compared to traditional transfer methods, such as crane-and-basket.
Another design popular in the offshore wind arena that could be used in the oil and gas sector involves a combination of Ulstein's X-BOW and X-STERN hullforms. The increasingly familiar but still eye-catching X-BOW inverts the traditional bow shape and gives vessels a wave-piercing capability and the ability to absorb impacts more consistently across the hull's surface, resulting in greater stability and comfort and less fuel being used. The X-STERN takes the same concept and applies it, unsurprisingly, to a vessel's stern shape, with the aim of boosting operability and station-keeping in dynamic positioning mode. By facing the X-STERN into the weather, a captain can boost the performance of their vessel; there is less pitch motion and the operational window is increased, wave response and slamming are decreased, and trim and draft sensitivity reduced.
Active in both offshore wind and offshore oil and gas, Bernhard Schulte Offshore (BSO) currently owns two Ulstein SX175 SOVs featuring both X-BOW and X-STERN, Windea La Cour and Windea Leibniz; the company has ordered a third vessel of the SX195 design type.
The basic SX195 design has been modified to bring it in line with GE Renewable Energy’s tender requirements, incorporating BSO’s own choices of mission equipment. The new vessel will measure 93.4 m in length by 18 m in width and will be able to accommodate up to 120 people. Uptime International will provide a 30 m offshore access solution for the vessel, which will comprise an active motion-compensated gangway and adjustable pedestal, mounted next to the vessel’s elevator tower. The vessel will also incorporate a 3D-compensated crane and a fuel-efficient drive system, including a battery.
Half of the vessel’s storage capacity will be roofed over in a controlled environment, and the stepless access system will make for safer transfers of crew and equipment. Delivery is planned for 2020, following which the vessel will support maintenance of 66 Haliade 150-6 MW turbines at the Merkur Offshore windfarm located 28 miles from Germany’s Borkum Island. Potential work scopes for the vessel could include operations and maintenance and construction support.
BSO’s sister company Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) has set up a new unit specifically focused on the offshore oil and gas and renewables markets. BSM Offshore will provide integrated third-party ship-management services, such as technical and crew management, newbuild supervision, fleet maintenance and repair, layup solutions, travel services and software application solutions. The new unit will include technical and marine superintendents, crew managers and members of senior management.
BSM’s managing director Matthias Mueller explained the decision to set up an offshore-specific arm, saying: “This segment is focused on special operations and driven by different rules, so we decided to establish a dedicated expert team to specifically attend to the needs of the offshore market.”