Minimizing the Cost of Offshore Construction
Written by Paul Burns, Operations Director at FoundOcean, a subsea and offshore cementing specialist for the global energy construction industries
Minimizing cost is a priority for companies across all industries, up and down the supply chain. Many studies have been carried out into how to reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs associated with offshore projects. There is no simple solution, but nearly 50 years of offshore experience tells us that dedicating sufficient time and resources to pre-mobilization planning will result in a more cost-effective project for all involved.
Unforeseen delays are key contributors to unexpected project costs and come in many forms: mechanical, technical, personnel, weather, etc...
“Downtime for the project, however short, does not mean downtime for us,” says Paul Burns, Operations Director at FoundOcean with some 25 years of offshore experience. “The offshore team undertakes general plant maintenance, cleans the grouting equipment, and writes up client reports. Back in the office we’ll be assessing if the delay will have a knock-on effect on upcoming projects to which the plant and personnel onboard may be allocated.”
Experience shows that offshore, one should expect the unexpected, and planning multiple contingencies gives the project a better chance of staying on schedule. Tried-and-tested methods, coupled with detailed project specific operational procedures means that time offshore is used efficiently.
Contingency planning progresses with time, and knowing which problems are most likely to occur is something that only experience can teach. The most common contingencies that FoundOcean plans for are grout seal failures and blockages in hoses, valves or pile sleeve annuli. Overcoming a grout seal failure usually means setting a small grout plug in each annulus. Once cured, the remainder of the annulus can be grouted.
In the past, the company worked on a project where unexpected conditions made it impossible to set a contingency plug by normal methods. After some consideration, it was decided that something readily available onboard the Italian vessel that would expand in water could be used: pasta! The pasta was poured onto the seal and the grout was mixed and injected into the annulus to form a solid plug with the pasta. After it had set, the rest of the annulus was grouted as per FoundOcean’s standard operational procedure.
Integrated project schedules
Developing an annual schedule of works which includes multiple projects in one mobilization could benefit all companies within the supply chain. This type of work schedule is best led from the developer or owner as they have a clear picture of all the projects in their pipeline. Work in the same region can be grouped into a series of mini-projects within one larger scope of work, encouraging contractors to bid more competitively for the whole higher value project than for a series of lower value contracts.
Burns continues, “This would enable all members of the supply chain to more precisely allocate personnel and equipment to projects, ensuring that people with the right set of skills are deployed with the most suitable equipment for the full project duration.” He sees the benefit to the industry as a reduction in the need to repeatedly load and unload heavy equipment, set and unset sea fastenings, and redesign deck plans for each project, which ultimately leads to fewer delays and money lost.
Supply chain collaboration
Companies involved in constructing offshore wind farms are reaping the benefits of knowledge from the oil and gas sector, and vice versa.
One variable includes involving the supply chain earlier in the project. Companies that provide offshore services such as designers, fabricators, drillers, pipeline layers and grouters could proactively offer guidance on 'best practices' for their area of expertise for their phase of the installation. This would help identify potential operational and installation issues, with service providers sharing their knowledge of where snags have previously occurred, and solutions to fix them before committing to the final design and installation method.
Involving the supply chain early on in the project opens up the opportunities to innovate. Vattenfall, among others, incorporated that philosophy at the Ormonde Offshore Wind Farm, utilising a tried and tested concept that was adapted for its specific needs. The four-legged jacket foundation design was adapted with longer piles driven further into the seabed than oil and gas structures, which increased stability to cope with the associated dynamic loads of a turbine. The grout connectors were also positioned on the turbine deck in clusters on manifolds to reduce hose connection and disconnection times.
Although there is no one-fix solution to minimize the costs associated with offshore projects, experience tells us that meticulous planning and good communication throughout the supply chain before a project mobilizes helps keep a project on track, limiting the financial risk when delays occur.
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.