Offshore wind decommissioning: preparing today for tomorrow’s projects
Over the past three decades, wind turbine technology has made great strides. But now, first-generation offshore wind assets are rapidly approaching the ends of their use cycles. Owners and operators must begin preparing now to decommission their offshore wind turbines safely and sustainably in the near future.
Tackling risk in wind turbine decommissioning
Decommissioning for offshore wind turbines poses specific challenges. Owners are examining ways to safely dismantle their turbines while being mindful of the risks for the vessels involved and other assets in the vicinity.
These safety risks are similar to those involved in other offshore decommissioning projects and are linked to key project stages, from planning and disconnection to lifting, loading and transportation. What is different is the number of times each operation must be repeated: the plan for decommissioning a single oil rig will be different from that needed to decommission 15 to 50 wind turbines.
Marine assurance services are of the utmost importance to minimize risk. Surveys, analyses and inspections all help ensure that removal operations are conducted properly and safely. These assessments, carried out by trusted professionals, improve the efficiency of decommissioning projects.
Marine warranty services also play a role in preventing mistakes during decommissioning. Bringing in surveyors to conduct risk analyses and assurance will ensure that decommissioning is planned and executed efficiently, from start to finish.
Embracing circular economy principles
Environmental impact is one of the most important considerations for decommissioning projects, and circularity plays a key role in reducing it. Whereas today, circularity is a consideration when building new wind turbines, older assets were not always designed with sustainable decommissioning in mind. As a result, many of their materials are not recyclable.
When decommissioning older wind turbines, the offshore industry increasingly needs to ensure that all components are disposed of appropriately. They are also seeking to minimize the amount of waste produced. Carbon fiber blades, for instance, can no longer be sent to the landfill. New uses must be found for these and other pieces of decommissioned turbines.
One way to do this could be repurposing and reusing existing assets in future offshore wind farms. Older turbines also tend to be smaller, and operators are exploring how they could be integrated into newer structures. Gravity-based structures, for example, could potentially be reinforced and enlarged to cope with the greater weight and capacity required today.
Operators are also exploring how other industries could potentially reuse and recycle parts from offshore wind turbines. Innovative uses to date have included footbridges, cell phone towers and cattle partitions in farms. Another forward-thinking idea is to repurpose disused wind blades as structural elements of floating platforms used to carry large photo-voltaic solar arrays.
The sector needs to design wind turbines with decommissioning in mind. This will mean selecting greener materials from the outset. For example, producing new steel releases three metric tons of CO2, whereas using recycled steel releases as little as 0.4 metric tons of CO2. A circular approach involves finding ways to repurpose steel in offshore wind turbine projects.
Preparing ports for decommissioning projects
To meet decommissioning needs, enough ports must be up to the task of handling offshore wind turbines. Not every port will be able to manage projects of this type due to infrastructure needs. Decommissioning therefore presents an opportunity for some ports to specialize in these types of projects.
Port operators should begin to think of decommissioning not only for oil and gas assets but also for offshore wind turbines. Governments need to begin to create policies that will incentivize more ports to prepare for such projects. This will enable decommissioning to take place locally rather than shipping old assets internationally to be decommissioned, thus making the process even less efficient or sustainable.
Global Strategic Sales Director
BV Solutions M&O
Thinking about decommissioning starts at the beginning of the asset lifecycle. Today, we are starting to dismantle wind farms that were not designed with decommissioning in mind. By thinking about materials use and repurposing from the outset, we can lower the impact of decommissioning in years to come.
BV Solutions M&O: your partner for offshore wind decommissioning
BV Solutions M&O has longstanding expertise in decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure. Our experience across every stage of this process gives us unique and vital insight into offshore wind decommissioning projects and enables us to support clients embarking on new decommissioning projects.
We are also a key industry partner for offshore wind owners and operators, thanks to our business expertise. Working closely with our offshore wind clients, BV Solutions M&O can pass on our insight to clients to help avoid problems at a later date. Through our holistic approach and early engagement on projects, we ensure that projects are being done right, from start to finish. For example, we have an end-to-end approach to materials, and can support clients on a circular economy approach. We work with clients every step of the way, from material selection through to decommissioning.
BV Solutions M&O also understands and anticipates clients’ sustainability needs. Traceability is a primary concern for owners looking to minimize the environmental impact of their operations. We can offer traceability for decommissioning processes, so their full impact can be analyzed. We can also create inventories of hazardous materials involved in such projects, so that no risk or impact is overlooked.