Offshore and subsea specialists plunge into wave power sector

Published:  06 December, 2019

Firms from the subsea and offshore engineering sectors were among the winners in a Europe-wide call to find new technologies to quickly and easily connect wave energy devices at sea.

In what could be a game changer for Scotland’s wave energy industry, this call from Wave Energy Scotland will award contracts to firms keen to bolster their involvement in the renewables sector.

Aberdeen-based offshore engineers Apollo, subsea specialists SRP and electrical components provider Ditrel Industrial feature in the seven winning projects totalling around £460,000 as part of a £2 million plus ‘Quick Connections System’ Wave Energy Scotland (WES) innovation workstream.

The announcement was made by Scotland’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse MSP on December 5 as he made the opening address at the Wave Energy Scotland Annual Conference in Edinburgh.

Commenting on the awards, Elva Bannon (pictured), senior research engineer at WES  said:

“Finding ways to quickly connect a wave energy device to its moorings and electrical system in the harsh marine climate is one of the crucial elements in developing commercial wave technology. A successful solution to this challenge will reduce time, cost and risk in offshore operations.

“Scotland is already a global leader in offshore engineering, and it makes sense to capitalise on this expertise for ocean energy – where we face many similar challenges.

“The companies involved in these projects bring significant experience from subsea engineering, offshore wind and tidal projects to meet the needs of the wave energy sector.

“At the same time there is a clear ambition from existing offshore oil and gas operators to decarbonise their own operations through greater use of green energy, and they are showing increasing interest in wave energy technologies - so this is a win-win for everyone,” Bannon says.

The seven winners now have three months to deliver feasibility studies on their proposed technologies. They will then compete to pass through two further ‘stage gates’ to design and ultimately build and test their concept.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

“The response to this call from companies outside the wave energy sector - in particular established players in offshore engineering - has been remarkable and strengthens the links between sectors which are hugely important to the future of the Scottish economy, the energy supply chain, and our efforts to tackle the global climate emergency. We have seen a decisive shift in recent years towards investment in low-carbon forms of energy technologies, and this continues with the move to develop marine energy resources.

“This fantastic response from such a range of companies will help bring technology and expertise into the wave sector and will help us meet the ambitions highlighted in the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy. In particular, I am heartened to see that firms from the Highlands and Islands are well represented in the winning bids.

“With the award of these projects, this brings the investment by our Wave Energy Scotland programme in the sector to almost £40 million since its establishment in 2014.”

The Quick Connections Systems call is the fifth innovation call from WES. Previous calls were:

1. Power take off

2. Novel wave energy converters

3. Structural materials and manufacturing processes

4. Control systems

Several technologies have already progressed through feasibility, design and development stages for these calls, including two wave energy companies developing half-scale devices which will be tested at sea in Orkney in 2020.

The winning companies in alphabetical order are:

Lead Contractor: Apollo

Project Title: Pull and Lock Marine (PALM) Connection System

Project Summary: The Pull and Lock Marine (PALM) connector proposes robust, reliable and repeatable connections of the Wave Energy Converter (WEC) in a short, simple marine operation.

The PALM is based around a submerged buoy mooring with an integrated electrical riser. Tugs are used to position the WEC, engage the PALM and complete the mechanical and electrical connection. The core innovation is the design of a formed plug component and catcher arm. Coarse and fine guide slots ensure tight alignment, so that electrical connection can be completed simultaneously. The resulting linkage is fully articulated, while riser tension ensures continuous connection in all sea states.

Cost (ex VAT): £47,850

Lead Contractor: Blackfish Engineering Ltd

Project Title: C-DART Quick Connection System

Project Summary: The C-DART Quick Connection System (QCS) is a combined mooring and electrical connection device for rapid deployment and recovery of moored, electromechanical marine devices, such as wave energy converters (WECs). Its design permits both electrical and mechanical connections to be made remotely of the towing vessel.

The C-DART QCS has two primary elements: a surface buoy, permanently connected to a mooring system and subsea electrical cable; and a device mooring / towing hawser that incorporates an electrical cable and an interfacing QCS connector.

The C-DART QCS offers a reliable solution for electrical and mooring connections using a simple, practical marine operation. When compared to the current state of the art, it offers a significant reduction in manual intervention as well as an increased operational weather window and a reduced deployment and recovery duration. These key characteristics will enable a step-change reduction in the cost of deploying and recovering devices and will reduce the EHS risk exposure of undertaking the associated marine operations.

Cost (ex VAT): £69,050

Subcontractors: Skua Marine Ltd.

Lead Contractor: Ditrel Industrial S.L.

Project Title: SEMC (Subsea Electrical & Mooring Connector)

Project Summary: The SEMC project (Subsea Electrical & Mooring Connection) will assess the feasibility of a submarine connector, composed of a watertight device capable of housing the electrical terminals necessary to carry out a connection between an underwater electrical cable and a WEC, while also having the function of mooring the device to the seabed.

This proposed project presents a series of innovations around the connection/disconnection system, such as a lower requirement for specialised mooring installation vessels and personnel, and shorter time requirements for the whole installation operation. Consequently, shorter weather windows are needed, resulting in lower costs and a more viable O&M strategy.

Cost (ex VAT): £69,800

Subcontractors: Fundación TECNALIA Research & Innovation, Highland Design Engineering Ltd (trading as 4c Engineering).

Lead Contractor: Nova Innovation Ltd

Project Title: MECmate

Project Summary: Nova Innovation’s MECmate subsea electrical connector is a quick, robust and cost-effective wet-mate connection solution, specifically designed for marine energy converters (MECs). The system utilises a single pin, multi-pass electrical connection; a design that offers a number of advantages over traditional solutions.

MECmate builds on Nova’s field-proven, dry-mate subsea electrical connector, the NOVA-CAN, which is successfully installed and operating in all three turbines in Nova’s Shetland Tidal Array.

The product is designed to meet the demanding requirement of early MEC prototype testing, where operational loads are uncertain, and multiple connection and disconnection operations will be required. As the industry matures, future refinement will allow the product to evolve to meet the needs of commercial devices.

Cost (ex VAT): £68,900

Subcontractors: Wave Venture Ltd.

Lead Contractor: Quoceant Ltd

Project Title: Q-Connect

Project Summary: Quoceant will work with their project partners, Inyanga Maritime and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), to develop the ‘Q-Connect’ system. The intention of the Q-Connect is to provide combined mechanical and electrical connection in a manner which is adaptable to a range of different prototype WEC designs.

The Stage 1 work will seek to further the concept design for this adaptable system, as well as targeting key technology improvements over existing state-of-the-art. The activities will include concept drawing, operational storyboarding and design appraisal. This will allow a meaningful assessment to be made of the feasibility of the design, its potential benefits and the range of WEC designs to which it may be compatible.

Cost (ex VAT): £69,344

Subcontractors: EMEC, Inyanga Maritime Ltd.

Lead Contractor: Subsea Riser Products Ltd

Project Title: Rocksteady WEC Mooring and Electrical Connection

Project Summary: Rocksteady V is a variant of SRP’s field proven Rocksteady® subsea mooring connector designed specifically for hull or pile mounting and pull through operations, with sufficient pass-through diameter for a marker buoy and rope accessories and facility for wet-mate electrical connections.

Rocksteady V aligns the pull-in head and then automatically latches with capture angles up to 180° in azimuth and 15° offset from vertical. Lock is achieved hydraulically or electrically, and the connector can be disconnected with tension in the mooring system, enabling rapid disconnection.

Stage 1 will demonstrate the feasibility of the connector for the intended applications with a wave energy converter. Activities will include size and capacity definition; selection of appropriate wet mate connectors and integration methods; selection of actuation methods; and reporting on the expected manufacturing and integration benefits and challenges of integrating the connector as part of the fixed structure instead of the outboard moorings.

Cost (ex VAT): £69,602

Subcontractors: 2H Offshore Engineering Ltd, CETO Wave Energy UK Ltd, CorPower Ocean Ltd, InterMoor Ltd, TE Connectivity Ltd.

Lead Contractor: TTI Marine Renewables Ltd

Project Title: THOR-QCS (Tension Hookup Operation and Retrieval - QCS)

Project Summary: The mooring system for Wave Energy Convertors (WEC) typically requires a degree of pretension in the system to achieve acceptable system responses, regardless of the mooring line type. Hooking-up (connecting) and disconnecting the mooring system whilst generating sufficient pretension is typically a complex marine operation requiring numerous temporary phases, which has a resulting economic cost to the project.

The proposed innovation integrates off-the-shelf and bespoke hardware, and a novel marine operations approach to facilitate the mooring hook-up and disconnection operations for WECs.

A bespoke tool will be developed that is temporarily installed between a mooring pennant connected to the WEC and a part of the pre-installed mooring system. The tool will provide a self-reacting pull-in force between the parts of the system, such that the main mooring line can be connected whilst under zero tension.

The Stage 1 project will assess the feasibility of the concept by carrying out concept engineering and operational storyboarding.

Cost (ex VAT): £66,675

Subcontractors: Tension Technology International Ltd.

www.waveenergyscotland.co.uk

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