Driving the Energy Transition - Your O&M partner

05.05.2021

How we move on from our reliance on hydrocarbons and transition to renewable forms of energy is the fundamental issue for our sector. 

One thing that will not change is the continued reliance on the North Sea. The Offshore Wind Industry Council forecasts that the private sector is readying £60.8 billion to invest in developing, building and operating new offshore wind projects over the next five years.

But while wind energy generation technology has come on in leaps and bounds, the sector is still in many ways held back by inefficient processes that present an opportunity to accelerate the transition and boost productivity. 

Overcoming an inefficient legacy

Windfarm operators are still multi-contracting their Operations and Maintenance (O&M), with anything from a handful to dozens of small providers delivering services. This is a legacy issue; the earliest wind turbines had a ten-year warranty and when these expired in the early 2010s utility companies found there were no tier-one O&M contractors offering the service they needed, so they were forced to oversee it themselves.

Bilfinger Salamis UK has been a major multi-disciplined service contractor to the North Sea oil and gas industry for more than 45 years, and our services cover the entire project life cycle: from consulting and engineering, technologies and components through to production, construction and maintenance; to support our clients in delivering their renewable projects. 

Innovation and partnerships

Partnering with one contractor is less time and resource intensive than managing a team of vendors and generates typical administrative cost savings of approximately 20 to 30%. This can be as simple as being able to provide clients with multidisciplinary teams with inspection engineers and technicians for site visits, which ensure repairs can be made there and then. It also means customers can be sure of consistent quality across their O&M function, from safety standards and regulatory compliance to service delivery and project reporting.

Another drawback of the existing multi-contracting model is that smaller providers can struggle to support the kind of innovative thinking that the energy transition needs. At our new facilities at The Core in Aberdeen, we’re developing technologies that are making a real difference for our customers. Our smart apps for service technicians in fabric maintenance and inspection are enabling work to be documented quickly and easily in the field, improving quality while saving time and money. And we’re supporting firms in transforming their business delivery through data, taking information from desks on to site through tablet technology to help them manage the workforce. 

We’re also investing and collaborating with select specialist partners to expand the services we provide. We recently announced a partnership with blade repair and maintenance specialists GEV Wind Power that will offer wind farm operators a complete service for the repair and maintenance of full turbines. Alongside Aerones, we’re offering robotic blade inspection and testing to reduce downtime and increase annual energy production (AEP) and with Amphibious Energy, we’re providing solar and wind-powered pods that will ultimately replace the diesel generators that are currently 
installed on every offshore wind turbine during their construction. We’re also working with Sabik Offshore to install and maintain a range of navigation aids.

Of course, it’s not just energy generation; carbon capture and storage will be vital if the UK is to transition to a net zero economy and there are decades of seismic data on North Sea wells to inform this process.

Supporting bigger projects

As more energy companies enter the offshore wind sector to support their energy transition, projects are growing in size and these businesses need tier one contractors with the scale to invest and innovate. 

Bilfinger Salamis UK is unique in the market in being able to match this scale. Our extensive labour pool and network of logistics facilities in key renewables hubs provide complete coverage of the North Sea and through the Bilfinger Group, we draw on the engineering expertise of Bilfinger Tebodin and Bilfinger UK; companies that work on some of Europe’s largest construction projects, including Hinkley Point.

Through the solutions and services we offer as a single operations and maintenance contractor covering the entire lifecycle, we help our customers focus on their core business and support them in delivering the projects that matter in the energy transition. 

  • Stephen Drabble, Bilfinger Salamis UK renewables operations manager. Article first appeared in OGV Energy Magazine, May 2021