Wind Turbine Installation Vessel Taken to New Depths

Image Source: Keppel Corporation

The offshore wind energy sector is set to make waves in the launch of a new, environmentally friendly vessel. Keppel FELS Limited’s multi-purpose self-elevating platform (MPSEP) design has been chosen by the Seafox Group as the basis for a new-generation wind turbine installation vessel, made possible through the joint venture of Keppel FELS and Seafox.

When compared with existing wind turbine installation vessels, and the majority of those being constructed, this new 220 million dollar MPSEP is designed for operating in deeper waters, reducing downtime and providing a potentially longer operational window. With its large carrying capacity of up to 12 turbines at a time, the MPSEP enhances the efficiency of constructing offshore wind farms and will withstand harsher offshore environmental conditions all year round. The MPSEP, to be named SEAFOX 5, will as well support a wide range of related activities such as accommodation, well intervention, maintenance, construction and decommissioning.

With its distinctive ability over other existing vessels to install and maintain heavy wind turbine foundations, SEAFOX 5 will function as the jacket and tripod type, especially in deeper waters. In addition to being well suited for servicing offshore wind farms, it also meets all the stringent operating regulations of the offshore oil and gas industry.

With their target set at producing 40 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020 and 150 GW by 2030, The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) expects to install some 8,000 offshore wind turbines in the next decade. In doing so they hope to meet their goal of delivering 15% of the UK’s electricity needs through wind energy by 2020.

Of these 8,000 turbines, it is estimated that some 2,700 of them will be required to be in water depths greater than 45 meters. The SEAFOX 5 vessel is among the first on order worldwide that is capable of fulfilling this water-depth requirement.

“The offshore wind energy market holds good potential for installation and maintenance vessels that can operate over long periods in deeper waters beyond 45 meters”, Mr. Wong Kok Seng, Executive Director of Keppel FELS said.

Upcoming wind farms are expected to move further offshore for development and into harsher environments and deeper waters. In as much that offshore winds tend to flow at greater speeds than onshore winds, thus allowing turbines to produce more electricity, these new locations will be more efficient. Where wind speeds are higher, constant and thereby requiring more robust solutions, there is an increasing need for heavier wind turbines with larger capacities.

“The KFELS MPSEP will offer significant advantages in terms of safety, operations, time and cost to operators working in these harsh environments”, Mr. Wong added. “By overcoming the typical limitations of the existing fleet in the market, this advanced vessel will redefine the way in which offshore wind farms are installed and maintained across the world.”

Mr. Keesjan Cordia, Managing Director of Seafox Contractors BV, added, “When completed, this ground-breaking vessel will address and overcome critical technical and safety challenges faced in the construction and maintenance of wind farms in deeper waters and carve a critical niche for Seafox and Keppel.”

Founded in 1991, Seafox is a leading provider of self-elevating accommodation and maintenance support units. The Seafox Group services a global range of customers with a primary focus on the Southern North Sea in Europe. Their extensive experience operating and managing assets are known for meeting stringent rules and regulations and working in difficult environments.

Keppel FELS, a subsidiary of Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd (Keppel O&M), is a leader in offshore rig design, repair and construction, ship repair and conversion and specialized shipbuilding. Integrating the experience and expertise of its yards worldwide, the group aims to be the provider of choice and partner for solutions for the offshore and marine industry.

“In working with an experienced fleet owner and operating partner such as Seafox to launch our design”, says Wong, “we will have a good head start in developing our track record as the choice solutions provider for the emerging offshore wind energy sector”.

The KFELS MPSEP vessel is scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2012, and will be managed and operated by Workfox BV, a member of the Seafox Group. The vessel is not expected to have any material impact on the net tangible assets or earnings per share of Keppel Corporation Limited for the current financial year but is instead set to provide a highly versatile and cost-efficient solution for the offshore energy industry.