12/04/2021 - Renewables
by Auxence Gros-Borot and Stephan Scherf
Offshore wind has matured over the last decade to become one of the world’s fastest-growing renewable energy sources. But if increasing turbine sizes are a solution to drive down the cost of electricity, offshore structures are still a major challenge limiting the technology’s exponential growth. Vallourec’s solutions help industry operators rise to the challenge.
Today, offshore wind is recognized as a thriving sector that is on track to significantly decarbonize electricity. In fact, if current projections hold firm, offshore wind could generate enough “clean” electricity to avoid the 5-7 billion tons of CO2 emissions that would otherwise have been generated by its fossil-fuel counterparts over the next two decades.
But massive growth necessitates a rapid uptake in wind turbine installations. And this poses its own set of unique challenges. A variety of innovative and flexible solutions will be required to ensure the cost-effectiveness and environmental performance of future installations.
Rough conditions, high construction costs
Offshore wind turbines are invariably installed in areas with high winds, often combined with rough sea conditions. All the materials and solutions deployed must therefore be of the highest quality, robust and able to withstand extreme weather.
This results in high costs and development pressures, not just for the wind turbines themselves, but also for secondary structures such as boat landings and access platform on the tower.
Improving durability even in harsh environmental conditions
Offshore structures require materials that can withstand harsh environmental conditions such as high corrosion, variable temperatures and fierce storms. Everything from frame structures to boat landings and service decks must demonstrate exceptional durability and strength.
Vallourec’s secondary steel structures meet these requirements; they are qualified according to international offshore standards and codes. They are a particularly effective option, providing foundations with added protection against extreme conditions. The steel tubes feature superior surface quality and material stiffness. Seamless tubing enables boat landings to withstand the impact of crew vessels, and weldability is enhanced by a controlled carbon equivalent.
Vallourec’s secondary steel tubes are used for boat landings, J-tubes and service decks. They come in a wide range of dimensions, offering excellent flexibility. In addition, customized solutions, including tailor-made sizes, are available to optimize windmill foundations for individual projects.
Tubes for installation as well as for windmills
Installing wind turbines and rotors at more than 100 m height above sea level and in ever-increasing sizes and water depths is particularly challenging. It primarily uses jack-up barges which feature legs to lift themselves from the seabed, and cranes capable of lifting hundreds of tons.
Seamless tubes are used as bracings for both applications, and Vallourec has provided its products for Wind Turbine Installation Vessels operating all over the world.
Beyond tubes, Vallourec also developed PREON® Marine, an innovative solution to anchor the legs of jacket foundations to the seabed using seamless tubes, in an optimized installation sequence.
Supporting the market around the world
Numerous Vallourec customers around the world are already reaping the benefits of its robust and long-lasting steel tubes for their offshore wind installations. And now, we are even supplying equipment to support the development of the rapidly emerging floating wind market. Equinor’s Hywind Tampen 88-MW floating wind power project, for example, is helping the sector take a huge leap forward, and Vallourec’s seamless hot formed hollow sections are playing a part. Hywind Tampen is intended to provide electricity for the Snorre and Gullfaks offshore field operations in the Norwegian North Sea, and will be the world’s first floating wind farm to power offshore oil and gas platforms.
Vallourec has spent decades working with its oil and gas customers to ensure the durability and strength of its tubular products for offshore platforms. And because offshore wind and oil and gas projects share many commonalities, Vallourec already leverages its extensive oil and gas expertise to deliver adapted solutions to the offshore wind industry.
There is no doubt offshore wind has incredible market potential: its impressive progression over the last three decades is but one indicator. But to meet its full potential, the offshore wind industry requires the support of a variety of partners. And Vallourec is ready to play its part thanks to a combination of premium tubular products.
Auxence Gros-Borot joined Vallourec in 2018 as Marketing Manager for Renewables, assuming the role of Strategic Marketing Manager for the company's ETO (Energy Transition Opportunities) organization in 2020. A graduate of the prestigious engineering school Mines ParisTech, he began his career in offshore wind as a marketing analyst at AREVA Wind. This role, which he performed for 5 years, also covered the Group's other renewable and decarbonized energies: biomass, energy storage, concentrated solar power and the back-end nuclear cycle. Auxence has also worked in a consulting role on power-to-gas hydrogen projects.
Stephan Scherf is a civil and welding engineer, who joined Vallourec in 2011. After working as Technical Sales and Product/Project Manager for Offshore Construction Projects Worldwide, in 2018 he joined the EA Industry Sales Department as Sales Manager and Team Leader of Global On- and Offshore Construction Projects. His role is to enhance Vallourec's Offshore Wind business, developing new contacts and synergies to promote new innovative products and solutions.