New NSRI Report Identifies O&M as Key Area for Subsea Companies to Break into Offshore Wind Market

A new report from NSRI (National Subsea Research Initiative) has identified Operations & maintenance (O&M) – particularly inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) activities – as the highest potential area for subsea companies to diversify into offshore wind.

Titled ‘Subsea Technological Challenges in Offshore Wind’, the report highlights opportunities the offshore wind industry holds for UK subsea companies, with a technology roadmap outlining the way ahead with industry-driven objectives.

With global offshore wind expenditure forecast to reach £210billion over the next ten years, NSRI and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult joined forces in a bid to encourage diversification. The two organisations hosted an event in October to provide advice and support on market entry requirements, diversification strategies and the associated challenges.

The event also welcomed companies with experience in the offshore wind industry to provide an insight into the market challenges and barriers. These included a need to prove cost competitiveness or reduction and a proactive, innovative approach that does not dictate other industry methods. 

Around 40 percent of the typical lifecycle costs of offshore wind farm developments come from O&M requirements. Based on UK Government projections for offshore wind deployment, the O&M costs for more than 5,500 turbines could be worth £2billion per annum by 2025.

Given the UK industry’s existing IRM capability, companies could break into the offshore wind market by offering individual services such as automated inspection, cable scour inspection, condition monitoring, remote monitoring, increased turbine access and risk based inspection. In time, these services could be bundled to deliver a full life-of-field offering. It’s also believed that diverless solutions will be of growing interest as offshore wind developments move further offshore into deeper waters.

The ideas generated from the workshop have allowed NSRI to create a technology roadmap. These ideas have been grouped using an adopt, adapt, develop and collaborate principle, setting out the short, medium and long term activities that will help progress the development of subsea technology for widespread use in the offshore wind sector. The report also highlights opportunities for operators, developers, academia and the wider industry to work together to break down barriers and bring about positive change.

Commenting on the report, Dr Gordon Drummond, project director of NSRI said: "Offshore renewables is a growing market which presents exciting new business opportunities for the UK supply chain. While fossil fuels are expected to continue dominating the global energy supply mix, renewables are taking off at an incredible rate. There are some natural synergies between the sectors, which provide a real advantage for subsea companies looking to expand their presence in multiple energy markets. 

"The offshore wind industry is focused on innovating to reduce costs, giving subsea companies the chance to introduce new technology and products to the industry. Diversifying into renewables provides greater resilience for companies and those who take an early lead will reap the benefits. 

"The return on investment for renewable projects can be achieved significantly quicker than those in the oil and gas sector, representing a natural, highly profitable diversification strategy. We hope this report, along with the technology roadmaps will help guide companies through the steps required to break into the offshore wind industry, highlighting the entry routes and the opportunities most accessible to the UK supply chain.”

Jamie McCallum, project engineer at NSRI, has been heavily involved in exploring the opportunities in offshore renewables for UK supply chain companies.

He said: "Companies experienced in ROV operations, subsea construction and IRM need to jump into action and adapt their offerings now if they are to meet the needs of the sector and drive long-term growth. The largest opportunity for the UK subsea supply chain is operations and maintenance. Europe is most definitely leading the way in offshore wind. However, China, Japan and the USA are growing markets, which present a host of opportunities for UK firms over the next five to 10 years."