This article has been written for the “Groundbreaking SME” section for InnovatieLink and the Topsector Energie (Netherlands)
MO4 has developed a fundamentally different method to determine whether it is safe to work on offshore wind farms. Linking weather forecasts to a hydromechanical model does not predict wave heights but ship motions. Up to six days in advance you can see how a ship will behave. That provides 10-20 percent extra working days or millions of euros. DNVGL and industrial leaders believe that this is the method of the future. An interview with MO4’s Mark Paalvast and Jelte Kymmell.
For which problem did you find a solution?
“At the moment, companies are planning their offshore operations based on wave and wind forecasts for the medium term (7-8 days). Calculations about the expected wave heights, period and direction determine whether to sail or, if they are already in the field, perform certain activities. An old-fashioned method that has been in use since the Second World War. Weather forecasts have become increasingly accurate, but in fact this method is too simple. It offers too little information to be able to properly decide whether it is safe. Because of this great uncertainty, companies are incorporating a large safety margin. This leads to delays and extra costs, something the offshore wind industry cannot afford. With our method we can accurately predict ship motions. That is ultimately what it is all about.”
What is the core of your solution?
“Whether you can work at a ship is not so much dependent on the waves but on the motions of the ship: rolling, swinging, up and down movements. We have developed a high-quality hydrodynamic model in which weather forecasts are loaded and which predicts all motions of a ship from half an hour up to six days ahead. This model comprises a database of algorithms in which many years of R&D knowledge about hydromechanics has been incorporated. The crew does not have to delve into all data and calculations: the system does. The result is a recommendation to what extent the weather conditions allow them to get started. Within which limits a ship can be deployed and which ship motions are critical will depend on the planned operation. This can vary from lifting a monopile, transferring crew or laying a cable. We have developed various modules for this that can be installed on board or onshore. ”
What is so pioneering about your solution?
“Technically it is innovative that we make it possible to see the ship motions for the coming days with the push of a button. All processes are linked to each other into an automated system. Our method also means a completely new way of working. A company can make a substantiated decision on completely different grounds. ”
What are the benefits?
“We are increasing the efficiency of the operation. A ship costs €30,000 up to a several €100,000’s a day. Thanks to our method, the number of working days can be increased by 10-20%. Increasing the workability, the offshore wind industry can save hundreds of millions annually. In addition, we limit the risks by not sailing to a location if it is actually not possible, as is sometimes the case nowadays. Furthermore, the statistical model offers a clear, transparent way of working: afterwards one can determine what the weather was like while an on-board sensor validates all data. The engineering of the operation is also a lot simpler and, therefore, cheaper; so far, someone in the office has been busy calculating for a long time. In principle, our method is applicable to everything that moves at sea. For the most weather critical operations, such as lifting heavy loads, working from smaller ships and transferring people, the direct benefits are the most obvious.”
What are your biggest challenges?
“As a small company, we have to compete with the 70-year-old culture in the sector to see wave height as a determining parameter. It is very difficult to convince the industry that they must make other choices. You must take everyone along and train people so that they understand what the numbers mean. The sector is not known for its flexibility to change, especially not if nothing has gone wrong in the past.”
How far are you now?
“We have carried out projects for Rederij Groen, DEME, Acta Marine, Jack-Up Barge and Boskalis. Our method is validated and ready to be rolled out. At the initiative of DNVGL, we are carrying out a Joint Industry Project with other industrial parties such as Equinor, Subsea 7 and … to draw up rules for conducting operations. In their eyes, our method is the future. Leaders such as Shell, Statoil, Boskalis and Jack-Up Barge are also testing our system and have acknowledged that our method is better. And TKI Wind op Zee is supporting a project with Marin and Acta.”
What are your next steps?
“Grow as organization. We want to develop more modules and make our system more user-friendly. However, the most important thing is to convince customers. That is why we mainly focus on marketing to increase awareness. If all goes well, we hope to serve 25 customers and have 50 systems in operation in a few years. ”