Heating for Arctic climates

Work on a Heinen & Hopman HVAC system.  Photo from Heinen & Hopman.

Energy efficiency is high on the agenda for both Arctic exploration and in general. Elaine Maslin found out more.

Whirring away behind the scenes on most platforms are heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which few give little thought to unless their rooms are too hot or too cold.

More thought is now being applied to offshore HVAC systems, particularly in relation to Arctic operations. Power requirements for the HVAC system alone on a rig in the Arctic can reach up to 50MW.

“It is one of the biggest power consumers on an arctic drilling rig, when you have -40° temperatures,” says Eric Stoffelsen, sales manager for Dutch HVAC systems firm Heinen & Hopman. “You can be using 15-20MW for heating, and up to 25MW on less efficient rigs. If we can find a way to reduce that by 50%, it would be a big saving.”

Heinen & Hopman, which provides systems for most offshore facilities, from floating production storage and offloading units to fixed platforms and offshore wind substations, is doing just that. The firm is working with design companies to find more efficient HVAC systems, using the experience it has acquired since its founding in 1965.

In fact, reducing energy consumption and greener solutions are generally in more demand in the offshore industry, Stoffelsen says. The Norwegian sector is leading the charge, having available cash to spend on long-term projects. The country has also invested in making green solutions and efficiency more viable, due in part to governmental pressure and taxes on CO2 emissions.

There are already some platforms powered from shore on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, including BP’s Valhall installation. The Norwegian government recently voted in favor of making it mandatory for future platforms in certain areas of its waters to be powered from shore to reduce CO2 emissions from turbines.

Using waste energy is one example of how the industry is trying to implement greener solutions says, including in onboard engines or other systems, even HVAC systems, Stoffelsen says. Refrigerant gas alternatives are being used, moving from 134a to using 417f, which as zero impact on the environment, Stoffelsen says.

Heinen & Hopman has introduced a lightweight, oil-free compressor, Turbocor, which it says uses 50% less energy while being 60% more energy efficient than comparable compressors. “It [became] a very efficient compressor by improving what we have already to make it more efficient, but as capable, and not using oil, [but] by using magnetic bearings” says Stoffelsen.

But, there is still reluctance to embrace such technology. “Safety is first and then reliability,” says Stoffelsen. “If you are introducing a new refrigerant gas wfor example, it is difficult to bring it to people operating platforms because of this.”

Aging platforms are also an interesting market for the company, particularly in the North Sea, where installations are reaching 30-40 years old and requiring either equipment refurbishment or replacement. “There is still a lot happening in the North Sea. If it is not new build, it is upgrades and renovations on existing rigs,” Stoffelsen says. “New asset owners have a new purpose to get the last drops of oil out and are investing.”

Heinen & Hopman also works in the defense, commercial shipping and super yacht sectors. “Everything that floats or stands in water is our business,” says Stoffelsen. The firm moved to a new location in 2010, built using energy-efficient technologies, including ground source heat pumps developed by a sister company.

The firm grew on the back of expansion at the fabrication yards in China in the late 1990s. It has its own fabrication center in China, for mainly standard or serial equipment manufacture. The firm has offices around the world, most recently in Houma (Louisiana, US), Dubai (UAE), and Busan (South Korea), with manufacturing facilities now in the US, China, Singapore, India, Turkey, Germany, and The Netherlands. 

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