Innovation in Offshore Wind Operations and Maintenance

Yesterday I was invited to attend The Department for International Trade’s (DIT) ‘Innovation in Offshore Wind Operations and Maintenance’ seminar in Liverpool.

Following  long-standing efforts to help raise awareness  LCR supply chain opportunities  it was heartening to see a packed room with a good atmosphere and some great questions from businesses looking to become involved with a supply chain which may be on the brink of exponential growth. Coastal towns such as Grimsby and Barrow are benefitting from hosting world leading offshore wind facilities.

International contributions from Belgium, Denmark, and elsewhere, showed that those entering the supply chain can look forward to collaboration and a platform where the UK industry is perceived as having something of a springboard function, helping bring others along with it on the decarbonisation process prioritised by our new government.

Operations and Maintenance constitute the bulk of the project life and between a third and a half of the immense total project spend but is often seen as an unglamorous sibling to the exciting and eye-catching stages of development and construction.

That was certainly not in evidence in Liverpool at a vibrant conference held over the site of Liverpool’s oldest dock where innovation was in abundance. The industry is grown up now and, by applying lessons learned, can ensure the next phase is de-risked much earlier and a global lead maintained.

Larger machines are clearly not the only technological breakthrough that will help drive the offshore wind industry forward; innovation will play a significant role.

We were given a canter though innovation clusters from our own ORE Catapult but also sister organisations from Belgium Offshore Energy and the Danish Energy Innovation Cluster.

Presentations on state-of-the-art quality drone inspection of blades were augmented using 5G in offshore wind where offshore high-speed wireless LAN streaming already used in the oil and gas industry helps co-ordinate significant maritime events and makes the process much easier

We learned about the nuts and bolts, literally, through a presentation on making Inspection smarter – moving from routine to optimised maintenance for bolted flanges and structural components.

As with the North West’s 3DW there were more VR applications  Advanced communications and remote expert inspections and discussions around using both machine learning and artificial intelligence to mine the vast amounts of data produced.

Cabling has been an Achilles heel for offshore wind but using temperature to gauge the condition is interesting and failure rates reduced by technologies around monitoring burial depth of offshore power cables

The question and answer session looked at the realities of dealing with innovation and of a more proactive approach as bigger machines come online. We heard about advances and production issues affecting bearings, blades and cabling and measures already being prepared to reduce the pain experienced in earlier leasing rounds.

The next generation of technologies will give early and advanced warning of some critical issues. They range from drones with an astonishing  61 megabyte camera resolution to data- mining for smart predictive maintenance programmes enabled by  The Internet of Things

Afterwards I was able to chat with members of the DIT and was impressed by how seriously they are taking the opportunity. Curiously, Hydrogen had not gained much attention during the session but it is quite clear when I was able to speak with representative from our Embassy in Berlin that they are well aware of its potential and very much see the bigger picture.

The Liverpool region and wider area can watch the Round 4 process with considerable anticipation!