Offshore wind turbine technicians will be able to work longer in challenging seas when innovative fenders developed with a £50,000 grant are fitted to a company’s transfer vessels.
Dalby Offshore, working with Saline Marine and Manuplas, has developed a new modular honeycomb bow fender to bring greater stability to its vessels in high seas.
It means they can remain safely at turbines in waves more than 1.75-metre wave high, rather than heading back when they reach 1.5-metres like other vessels.
Technicians will be able to complete hours’ more work, saving clients considerable costs, long after competitor vessels head back to port.
Dalby Offshore worked with Plymouth-based company Manuplas to build the fender with a special polyurethane compound to create the right grip to turbines’ J tubes achieve improved stability.
The company – whose six-vessel fleet is based at Trinity Quay, Great Yarmouth – was awarded a maximum £50,000 grant from the £6million SCORE fund.
The investment helped development of the fender and the compound, which is far more effective than rubber used in conventional hollow ‘D’ fenders, and an intensive testing programme.
Steve Bartram, operations manager at Dalby Offshore, said scope for working in harsher seas had been limited previously by vessels’ hollow ‘D’ rubber fenders.
“In an industry constantly transferring technicians, if 12 can stay on turbines for two hours longer because the vessel can stay out and maintain stability in harsher conditions, that’s 24 hours more work for the client. It offers them huge savings.
“To achieve that, we needed to develop a compound with enough energy absorption and high levels of friction to stick to J tubes on the turbine and give the stability to keep technicians out in higher seas. The extra hours offered between 1.5m and 1.75m makes a lot of difference to client costs.”
Dalby Offshore invested £90-100,000 in its development and subsequent testing programme. The £50,000 grant helped to develop the compound further and for the fender to be fitted on to all of its six crew transfer vessels, which weigh between 68 and 100 tonnes.
“The problem isn’t getting the technicians on to the turbine but getting them off the turbine and on to the boat when the seas are tough because they have to go down backwards. The object is to minimise movement of the vessel. The fender achieves that.”
“Also, our vessels are 23 metres long compared to 18-20m, which also adds to the stability of the vessel in challenging conditions.”
“It’s a hefty investment to put the fenders on each of our six vessels, but this is all about investing in the future, bringing down costs for the client and moving forward in a fast-developing and highly-competitive industry.”
The plan was to fit the entire fleet with the fender this month (February), he said.
“The new fender lasts longer and doesn’t suffer so much wear and tear. It is six times more expensive per section but anything that passes savings on to our clients in offshore wind is worth a heavy investment to us. Time saved is money saved.”
The concave and convex fender spreads the load across the whole of the bow. Its yellow segments engage with the J tubes on turbines when the skipper lines up and pushes the vessel on to the turbine.
Propeller vessel Dalby Aire was fitted with the fender to work on the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, Mr Bartram said.
“The feedback was excellent and the contract on the Aire has been extended.” The Dalby Don, a jet boat, has also been fitted with a honeycomb fender.
Dalby Offshore – awarded a £35,000 grant from the first SCORE fund in 2014 to start to turn the concept into reality – was supported in its SCORE application by Tim Smith, of Dorset-based Saline Marine.
“Between us, Tim and Manuplas, we worked together to develop a new shape for the fenders and develop a process for working out how and where the energy absorption holes should be placed in it. A lot of engineering went into it to ensure there is enough energy absorption that neither the vessels or the turbines can be damaged, but also not be so soft that they fall apart,” Mr Bartram said.
Mr Smith said: “The SCORE grant is so important to develop innovative solutions to take the industry forward. Few small companies could afford to spend £50,000 on what is essentially an R&D (research and development) project.
Mr Smith said a full UK Electronics electronic monitoring system had been fitted to the vessel to log its movements, measuring impact force when it pushes on to the turbine and measuring motion of the vessel during the technician transfer stage, which with crew feedback, would be passed on to Manuplas as it developed the new compound.
“It gives us all of the data, which – uniquely – we will make available to the windfarm operators in order that they are fully informed of vessel performance, and the industry will be able to use to ensure continued development and lowering of costs. It will be rolled out to all the vessels in the fleet that have the fender.”
SCORE (Supply Chain innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy) offers grants of up to £50,000 to help companies across England to develop new products, processes and ideas – from patenting a product to exploring concepts that offer new ways of solving problems and driving efficiency in offshore renewables
Grants are available for up to 40% of eligible costs or £50,000, whichever is the lower, with a minimum grant of £2,500.
Companies can also access up to 12hrs of subsidised business support from Nwes to help grow and develop their business. Find out more at www.orbisenergy.co.uk
Watch a video of how the fender works and Steve Bartram, of Dalby Offshore, speaking about how the SCORE grant helped.