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Offshore wind, oil and gas are becoming friendsTest

In Europe, sustainability is an important theme, both politically and in public debate. Sometimes renewable energy is wholly preferred over fossil fuels. I think this defensive position in terms of fossil fuels is not constructive. The sustainability world can’t make it without the knowledge and experience of the more traditional oil and gas industry. Luckily, there are also companies that acknowledge this and are trying to set up joint ventures of companies and institutions from a variety of sectors.

I have been involved with a nice example of such a collaboration. Research company TNO, along with Siemens and Shell are busy with an innovative project called DemoWind, where system integration between offshore wind and offshore oil and gas is the goal. To do this the different partners look to improve their own initiatives by coming together and helping each other. Partners are for example energy producing companies, technical service contractors, consultants and scientific institutions.

Energy from windmill to platform
Offshore oil and gas companies, as well as those in offshore wind, see the necessity of reducing costs. With oceanic oil and gas extraction, the operational costs are high at the moment. Fossil sources are no longer easy to extract and the emissions are subject to strict requirements which have financial consequences. With offshore wind the costs are high because the infrastructure must be newly built and with both the construction and maintenance of wind turbines the operating window is limited.

But we can help each other. And I see it this way. Drilling rigs in the North Sea have gas-fueled turbines and compressors in order to suck up the extracted gas. Since there are many reserves that are hard to extract, this costs much time and energy and results in emissions. This is a costly affair for these two reasons. In the North Sea there are more and more windturbine parks being built. This delivers energy to hundreds of households, but why not also to the nearby drilling rigs? This is precisely TNO’s idea. In order to make this plan a reality, it is necessary for all parties to work together. TNO wants to assemble such ventures.

Remote monitoring and maintenance
There are also advantages to be had for the offshore wind companies. Think of joint personnel transport to windmills and rigs with fishing boats instead of helicopters, since helicopters can’t fly in all weather conditions. Also: multi-use rigs are being mentioned by the DemoWind-consortium. With these, offshore producers and suppliers can jointly use the platforms for projects on their own assets.

In this way, the experienced oil and gas world can make an impact for the relatively young wind sector. The upkeep of windmills is expensive and inefficient because the people need to be brought there and back to land. Moreover, there can often only be servicing just at the time there is a problem. Remote monitoring and online maintenance offer a solution and this is a specialism where we have many years of experience, especially concerning the upkeep of rigs and plants. By working remotely you need fewer resources, you work more efficiently and you can perform preventive maintenance. This prevents failures instead of solving them after the fact. In many instances this means a lot of man-power and cost savings since you can prevent a technical problem from getting out of hand.

Exporting ideas
There is another, final, bonus: all these ideas are prime for export to other countries, where they have a similar offshore situation. It then becomes a typical example of Dutch innovation, creativity and collaboration.

Personally, I gladly put my support behind the realization of such initiatives and the close friendship between renewable and fossil energy. The smart technology that Hint brings also has applications in other sectors than just the pure oil, gas and process industries. In this context I see the energy sector as quite wide and I embrace all of the new forms of energy.

Wouter Last, president Hint