IRM in offshore wind

Audrey Leon

January 6, 2017

Audrey Leon speaks with Tom Adams, vice president, Power Business Development, at ABS Group, to find out how the firm is offering its inspection and quality assurance services to the offshore wind industry.

Image from iStock.

With the downturn in oil and gas, several companies of all types are setting their sights on offshore wind, including inspection and verification firms such as ABS Group.

ABS Group has actively pursued projects in Europe and at home in the US, aimed at servicing the entire life cycle of a wind farm, from the design to commissioning, as well as operations and maintenance (O&M) programs once online.

With growing pressure on the supply chain to keep costs low, the offshore wind segment is also feeling the need for cost reductions.

“With the larger projects in Europe – there is a drive to keep costs competitive. Everyone participating in these projects – whether they are the major manufacturers, contractors, consultants and engineers, and the O&M providers are all under pressure to become more efficient and lower their costs,” says Tom Adams, vice president, Power Business Development, at ABS Group. “We are obviously looking to deliver our services competitively: automating our processes and making sure our approach to those tasks is streamlined, targeted – right resources, right time.”

Adams says that ABS Group has been successful in both the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) phase as well as the O&M phase of offshore wind projects. “In the EPC phase, we have raised design questions or issues that the designer may not have focused on, and we have caught in our review,” Adams says. “In the O&M phase, we have been involved in foundation conditioning monitoring, ongoing instrumentation of foundations – understanding how they have experienced loads and fatigue processes after installation and how that bears on design life over time.”

The first US wind farm, Block Island offshore Rhode Island, went online in early December 2016. ABS Group was part of that project, and also worked with the US regulatory body, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), to identify and prioritize offshore wind farm inspection procedures. ABS Group has reviewed procedures from around the globe, and has offered BSEE recommendations that have included the logistics for conducting the inspections as well as training for government inspectors.

While Europe is a more mature and competitive market for offshore wind projects, Adams is hopeful about the US. “It’s a market in its initial stage, and the US has had success with the first offshore wind farm going commercial. This is great for the industry, and we are waiting for the next round of projects to come,” he says. “We are optimistic that the US offshore wind market will continue to develop.”

While ABS Group uses a suite of its own in-house tools and software programs to help assess both project designs and O&M programs, in July 2016, the firm signed an agreement with DroneView Technologies to deliver joint aerial wind turbine and equipment inspections.

“Drone wind turbine inspections are a game changing solution for the wind industry, providing safer inspection techniques, faster turnaround times, lower operations and maintenance costs and improved reliability,” said Ted Hofbauer, ABS Group Director of Renewables Business Development, at the time of the announcement. “These inspections are ideal for maintenance and especially for emergency situations in which climbing is not possible,” added Michael Singer, CEO of DroneView Technologies, at the time.

ABS Group has also secured project certification and quality management work in Europe on several large wind farm projects including: DONG Energy’s Borkum Riffgrund 2 offshore wind farm in Germany, and its Hornsea Offshore Wind Farm Project One in the UK, and Hexicon’s Dounreay Tri Floating Offshore Wind Farm demonstrator project in Scotland.

In addition to the US and Europe, ABS Group’s offshore wind consulting service is also active in Taiwan, where Adams says the island nation has attracted attention already from European and US investors. “It is also an early market, but very promising from a wind resource perspective,” he says.

Supporting the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm

ABS Group provided independent structural integrity monitoring services for the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, located off the coast of Suffolk in England. ABS Group developed a technique to analyze the data gathered in a way that enables asset owners to implement preventive maintenance, saving valuable time and money, as well as improving certain safety aspects of the offshore structures.