The European Parliament officially agreed on the Paris climate agreement, end of 2016. This agreement is intended to keep the global rise in temperature beneath two degrees and aims to limit this rise to 1,5 degrees. Each country, including the Netherlands, is obliged to take measures in order to minimize greenhouse gas emission and must invest in order to contribute in achieving a climate-neutral society. Transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy-sources is inevitable to reach these goals. This gives rise to a talk with Edwin de Vries, director Wagenborg Offshore.
In what way will this much discussed energy transition influence the Dutch offshore industry?
“The result of this climate agreement is that everyone needs to switch from oil and gas to alternative fuels”. The Government wants the percentage of renewable energy to grow from 5% today to 14% in 2020 and 16% in 2023. In 2050 energy supplies should be completely renewable. Wind energy is an important source in order to reach these goals. Not only on land but also at sea”, according to Edwin de Vries. This why in the years to come the five largest wind-farms in the world will be constructed in the North Sea. Edwin continues: “Although building these wind-farms will be a challenge, it will also present business opportunities. I’m expecting that the innovative character of Dutch businesses, and certainly of Wagenborg, will play a leading role in the required energy transition.”
So the North Sea is important for the Netherlands in reaching this ambitious goal?
“The Netherlands, with state-of-the-art ports, is strategically situated on the North Sea. All signs indicate that the North Sea will indeed play a central role in the Dutch energy transition. This idea is increasingly widely held. Numerous plans exist to make the North Sea the centre for renewable energy. Wind energy will play a leading part in this but also other ideas are on the rise. Companies are researching
cultivating seaweed on a large scale to serve as raw material for biofuel. And some people who would like to generate electricity from tides and waves. So many new initiatives emerge that you would almost forget that the North Sea has been a source of energy for decades mainly for the exploration of oil and gas. And this will remain the case but increasingly in combination with the wind as energy source”, says Edwin. “The fact that the Netherlands has a strong maritime and offshore sector is definitely beneficial through which it can serve as base of operations for construction, management and maintenance of large scale energy infrastructure in the North Sea”, according to Edwin.
And this is where Wagenborg comes in..?
“Exactly!”, smiles Edwin. “As soon as new wind-farms are up and running, they need maintenance straight away. Servicing offshore locations, in mostly deep water, far from the coast, is a very expensive business and weather-dependent. In these type of situations, Wagenborg already established her added value with the ‘Walk-to-Work’ philosophy. Deploying a multifunctional vessel with accommodation, workshop and storage facilities, offshore maintenance can be done much more effective, safer and cheaper as opposed to helicopters or so called ‘crew transfer vessels’ used by many energy companies to do their maintenance at the moment”, according to Edwin.
Voith Schneider Propellers vs. Azimuth propulsion
The ‘Walk-to-Work’ vessel is equipped with Voith Schneider Propellers (VSP). This propulsion system guarantees a stepless adjustable and extreme fast control in terms of thrust and direction. The VSP significantly improves the dynamic footprint resulting in a more accurate and efficient dynamic positioning performance in all weather conditions. Additional advantages are roll stabilization and fuel savings up to 17,5%.
Due to the fast reaction time and stable DP performance not only more wind turbines can be services every hour. Also the vessel can be employed 34,5 additional days a year in comparison with other offshore vessels equipped with a traditional Azimuth propulsion system.
“Our ‘Walk-to-Work vessel’ is employable 360 days a year”
What exactly does the ‘Walk-to-Work’ philosophy imply?
As the slogan suggests, technicians can literally walk to work on this vessel, even 100 miles out at sea. Her motion compensated gangway enables technicians to work even in waves of up to 3,5 meters. The design is exactly based on this; providing a greater workability annually. I would venture to say that our Walk-to-Work vessel is deployable 360 days a year”, Edwin states proudly. “Due to the lay-out of the vessel and the combination of different functionalities on board, such as a large workshop below deck with an elevator connected directly to the gangway. The lay-out is planned around the different workflows on board and follows the so called “step-less approach” between the vessel and the wind turbine. In addition to this the vessel is able to manoeuvre swiftly between the turbines because of the Voith Schneider Propellers and subsequently berth. On top of this, the system is very fuel efficient and this fits perfectly in striving for sustainability”, says Edwin.
What will be your aim the next five years regarding Wagenborg Offshore?
“In view of enormous developments in the offshore wind industry our focus is on the Walk-to-Work concept completely. At the moment we are developing three versions of this vessel: a lean one, a standard one and a large one with a capacity of respectively 40, 60 and 100 persons. We would prefer to enter into long term contracts with our customers or form a consortium to enable us to incorporate clients wishes in the design. I think we can make a difference compared to other offshore shipping companies: together with our customers we want to reach the best solution. What works for one customer doesn’t necessarily work for another. My estimation is that in five years’ time four Walk-to-Work vessels will be sailing: two for the offshore wind industry and two for the oil and gas business”, concludes Edwin