Keppel, SeaFox break new depths in the offshore wind energy sector

Source: Keppel Corporation

Keppel FELS Limited’s (Keppel FELS) multi-purpose self-elevating platform (MPSEP) design has been chosen by the Seafox Group (Seafox) as the basis for a new-generation, wind turbine installation vessel that can withstand harsh offshore environmental conditions all year round in water depths of 65 meters in the North Sea.

Compared with existing wind turbine installation vessels, and the majority of those being constructed, this vessel can operate in some 45%-deeper waters, while reducing downtime even in extreme storm conditions, thus providing a potentially longer operational window. With a large carrying capacity of up to 12 turbines at a time, it enhances the efficiency of constructing offshore wind farms.

A 75/25 joint venture (JV) company has been formed between Keppel FELS and Seafox respectively, to build and own this US$220 million vessel. Seafox has the option of acquiring Keppel’s stake in the JV company.

The KFELS MPSEP, designed by Keppel’s R&D arm, Offshore Technology Development, has the distinctive ability over other existing vessels to install and maintain heavy wind turbine foundations, such as the jacket and tripod types, and 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 & gas industry and can support a wide range of related activities such as accommodation, well intervention, maintenance, construction and decommissioning.

Mr. Wong Kok Seng, Executive Director of Keppel FELS, said, “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. The KFELS MPSEP will offer significant advantages in terms of safety, operations, time and cost to operators working in these harsh environments. 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.”

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.

Mr Keesjan Cordia, Managing Director of Seafox Contractors BV, added, “When completed, this ground-breaking vessel named SEAFOX 5, 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.

“In developing and building this high value asset, it is an imperative for us to collaborate with the most reliable and experienced offshore partner for the job. Keppel FELS’s proven design and construction expertise and commitment to on-time and within-budget delivery sealed our decision to partner them.”

Combining Keppel’s experience as the world’s foremost rig designer and builder, and Seafox’s deep insights as a leading provider of self-elevating accommodation and maintenance support units in the North Sea, the KFELS MPSEP is set to provide a highly versatile and cost-efficient solution for the offshore energy industry.

“We have successfully developed and commercialized many proprietary concepts for the North Sea region and other challenging frontiers by partnering our trendsetting customers in the early stages of those projects.

“This new KFELS MPSEP is an example of how we have been able to leverage and apply our market knowledge and technology expertise innovatively for a variety of offshore applications. Moreover, in working with an experienced fleet owner and operating partner such as Seafox to launch our design, we will have a good head start in developing our track record as the choice solutions provider for the emerging offshore wind energy sector,” Mr Wong added.

The above project is not expected to have material impact on the net tangible assets or earnings per share of Keppel Corporation Limited for the current financial year.

Offshore wind energy industry potential

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has set a target to achieve 40 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind in the European Union by 2020, and 150 GW by 2030.

Offshore winds tend to flow at greater speeds than onshore winds, thus allowing turbines to produce more electricity. Although a good majority of existing offshore wind farms are located in water depths less than 45 meters, those coming online are expected to move further offshore and into harsher environments such as the Central North Sea, where wind speeds are higher, constant and thereby requiring more robust solutions. There is also an increasing trend towards wind turbines with larger capacities which are heavier.

The UK expects to install some 8,000 offshore wind turbines in the next decade, to achieve the Round 3 offshore wind energy goal of delivering 15% of the UK’s electricity needs by 2020. Of these, it is estimated that some 2,700 turbines would be required at water depths greater than 45 meters. The KFELS MPSEP vessel is among the first on order worldwide that is capable of fulfilling this water-depth requirement.



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