Oceaneering’s acquisition of trenching and route clearance specialist Ecosse Subsea Systems provides it with a way into the offshore wind energy industry and some highly specialised pieces of equipment
Recent weeks have seen two important developments in the market for cable lay and trenching. The first, Global Marine Group’s acquisition of Fugro’s trenching and cable lay business (which now forms the basis of Global Offshore), is addressed elsewhere by OWJ; the second saw innovative Scottish outfit Ecosse Subsea Systems acquired by subsea super-major Oceaneering.
Headquartered in Aberdeen, Scotland, Ecosse Subsea was acquired by Oceaneering at a cost of £50M (US$69M) and builds and operates seabed preparation, route clearance and trenching tools for submarine cables. The company has undertaken several notable projects in the offshore oil and gas and offshore wind industries. Technology acquired in the transaction included Ecosse’s modular SCAR seabed system, which can complete the entire trenching work scope (route preparation, boulder clearance, trenching and backfill), and its newly developed SCARJet trenching system, which is designed for use with standard work-class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and adds state-of-the-art jetting and post-lay trenching capabilities to the existing pre-cut methods offered by the SCAR ploughing tool.
Reducing the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) has been a mantra in the offshore wind industry in recent years. In contrast, damage to cabling, which happens all too often, has tended to drive costs up, whether it occurs because of damage during installation or afterwards. Slow and sometimes unreliable trenching techniques can also lead to problems, as can issues such as boulders on the seabed on the cable route. It is against this backdrop that Oceaneering International decided to acquire Ecosse Subsea.
Over the last 20 years, the company, which was founded in 1996 by former chairman Mike Wilson, has focused on helping developers to reduce the LCOE by reducing risk, reducing cost and increasing flexibility. The SCAR is its principal tool for doing so.
A modular plough trencher which offers a robust and cost-effective option for low-risk, high productivity cable protection, the SCAR can operate in several configurations to provide a complete product protection solution spanning from site investigation and route preparation through to trenching and backfill. The driving force that inspired the design was a ‘back to basics’ philosophy, brought about from experience in trenching coupled with frequent observations of over-engineered and under-performing products.
SCAR’s four primary modes of operation are boulder clearance; pre-cut trenching; backfill; and what the company calls SUST (SCAR uninterrupted soils testing). In these different configurations the system provides a complete product protection solution spanning from site investigation and route preparation through to trenching and backfill.
As the company’s commercial director Keith McDermott noted in a recent presentation, using a single system for all the above-mentioned operations has several advantages. Firstly, pre-cut trenching and effective route preparation reduce the risk of damage to the product. It also reduces the risk of not achieving specification in the given soils, and decouples trenching operations from the project schedule, enabling key elements to be removed from the project critical path. Another advantage is that technology can be deployed from smaller, less expensive and more readily available support vessels, significantly impacting on installation costs. The SCAR was also designed to be robust enough for use in a wide range of soil types
. I t can clear boulders quickly and easily. The SCARJet is an evolutionary trenching system designed for use with standard work-class ROVs and adds state-of-the-art jetting and post-lay trenching capabilities to the existing pre-cut methods offered by the SCAR ploughing tools.
In 2017, the company used SCAR technology on several offshore wind projects. These included a seabed clearance and trenching scope on the Wikinger offshore windfarm in the Baltic Sea for the Prysmian Group, a campaign over 116 days that saw a SCAR system deal with an extremely varied seabed and shallow soil conditions. The route preparation phase on this project involved thousands of boulders being cleared over a distance of 34 km covering 45 inter array routes, followed by pre-cut trenching over 83 km in single and multi-pass modes.
Speaking about the acquisition of the company, Oceaneering’s president and chief executive Rod Larson said Ecosse provided Oceaneering with an opportunity to expand its service line, grow its market position in the offshore renewable energy market and provide customers with proven tools to optimise installation projects. “The addition of Ecosse reflects our commitment to expand into the renewable energy market to more comprehensively serve the offshore energy industry,” he said.
For his part, Mr Wilson described the acquisition as a “strategic opportunity” for its customers and employees. “Together we can establish a stronger platform to take on even larger and higher profile projects in the renewables and oil and gas industries,” he said.
Ecosse Subsea, the parent company of subsea technology specialist, Ecosse Subsea Systems, more than doubled turnover to £27.7M in the last financial year, primarily because of increased adoption of SCAR technology for offshore renewables and interconnector projects, aligned to growth in oil and gas engineering projects.
March 2018 saw the company’s new owner Oceaneering secure a three-year frame agreement with Van Oord Offshore Wind, part of the international dredging, marine and offshore contractor based in the Netherlands. The agreement relates to ROVs and trenching support services.
As part of the agreement, Oceaneering has agreed to install a work-class ROV on Van Oord’s cable lay vessel Nexus for the full three-year term. Oceaneering has also agreed to provide six ROV systems – including three observation-class and three work-class units – for Van Oord-operated vessels on request during the first year of the contract term. The ROV systems are to support several offshore windfarm assets.
Mr Larson said the award was the company’s largest in the offshore renewables services sector to date.
Curvetech thrusters to power French subsea trencher
Engineers at Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) have completed the build and test of a range of hydraulic thrusters for French subsea cable installation engineering firm Louis Dreyfus TravOcean.
SMD’s Curvetech THE-500BA and THE-430-63 thrusters are destined for use on a large trenching unit designed and built by the Marseille-based company.
In a cost-conscious market, SMD said it has seen an increase in demand from self-builders and third-party OEMs to use Curvetech components in the design and build of subsea engineering vehicles and equipment.
SMD’s Curvetech product range includes subsea vehicle propulsion systems, subsea motors and hydraulic power units, hydraulic valve control, compensators, control systems and surface high voltage power units, subsea sensors and electrical control cards, subsea tooling and work-class ROV skid units.