When it opens its doors on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, to welcome more than 3,000 delegates from around the world and over one hundred exhibitors, Subsea Expo 2022 will be sending out a strong signal that life and business are beginning to return to normal.
The event, organized by the Global Underwater Hub (GUH) and taking place at Aberdeen’s P&J Live from February 22-24, 2022, will follow the theme of ‘Oceans of Opportunity’ focussing attention on, and raising awareness of, how the UK’s underwater engineering industry can capitalize on underwater opportunities in the global blue economy, set to grow from £50bn to £140bn by 2035.
As a new, strategic, intelligence-led organization, promoting cross-sector collaboration, the GUH says the event provides a platform for all sectors of the underwater industry to share ideas and innovation, and to explore how they can work together.
This is underlined by the opening plenary session at Subsea Expo which will feature experts from the offshore energy, defense, marine renewable and aquaculture sectors who will highlight the opportunities in these rapidly growing markets and how the industry can capitalize on these.
Over the course of the conference, presenters from a range of sectors will also cover key industry topics including underwater technologies for the energy transition, autonomous solutions, marine science and sustainability.
The oil and gas sector remains the biggest market for the underwater community but offshore wind comes a close second and it is one market in which underwater skills, expertise and technology are in increasingly high demand. While many skills and technologies are eminently transferable, there are areas where greater innovation is required.
One such area is robotics which is why the conference will have a session devoted to subsea robotics for offshore wind energy on the second day of Subsea Expo.
Existing equipment, traditionally used in oil and gas, has limitations in dealing with high currents prevalent in many areas where offshore windfarms are built or being built.
Before a windfarm is constructed, ROVs are used for pre-installation archaeological studies and locating unexploded ordinance. During wind turbine installation, ROVs are used for touch down monitoring, installation support and survey work. All of these activities can be severely hampered by a ROV’s ability to navigate the sea state.
With the water current working limits of a typical oil and gas 250 horsepower work class ROV around two knots, and an observation ROV managing about one knot, a current of three or four knots – often seen at offshore windfarm sites - can greatly reduce the ability to work and, in turn, increase costs.
Mark Collins, business development director at subsea engineering service company SMD Ltd, is attending Subsea Expo 2022. He will be presenting on new optimized robots for offshore wind, designed to reduce risk and cost for installation contractors. He said: “Installation efficiencies are determined by the vessel’s work rate and the vessel’s work rate is often based on the ROV's ability to go in the water. I recently had a conversation with an offshore wind manager who estimated if the ROV can handle 1.4 knots, the vessel availability is 22 percent. But if the ROV can handle 2.5 knots the vessel availability increases to 60 percent, which is a huge jump.”
Collins' presentation will highlight SMD’s Atom EV ROV. It balances advanced control with a powerful electric propulsion system to better cope with the conditions when compared to traditional hydraulic ROVs or smaller electric ROVs.
A key element of the Atom EV is its symmetrical thrust profile which means it can work in any orientation in relation to the current. The ROV can operate effectively in currents up to three knots , opening up the vessel’s operational availability, driving efficiencies, and cutting costs for the operator.
With margins in the offshore wind sector significantly tighter than in oil and gas, the pressure is on for suppliers to increase efficiency. This in turn is driving demand for improved robotic technology and over the horizon operations which enable the machinery to be operated from an onshore location, reducing the risk and cost of having crews at sea.
Collins added: “To ensure the vessel has good uptime, you need to make sure your equipment can cope with the current and the environment, as well as supporting further environmental and cost efficiency drivers - like over the horizon operations. Those three pillars will be what supports the success of the supply chain working in offshore wind going forward.”
Making sure that the UK underwater industry is in a position to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the energy transition and the blue economy was the main driving force behind Subsea UK’s transition into the GUH last year. The new, strategically-focused organization aims to transform the industry and accelerate the transition to net-zero, creating new jobs and exports.
Neil Gordon, chief executive of the GUH, says now that the organization is fully operational, it can help companies attending Subsea Expo with market intelligence and insight, supporting them to make the right decisions about growing their business.
“As a new organization with greater resources, we’ll be able to support more underwater businesses in going after the opportunities in the ‘Blue Economy’,” said Gordon.
“Working with industry, the GUH will deliver significant export growth and attract new inward investment, promote cross-sector collaboration and innovation to develop solutions to underwater challenges, develop skills and capabilities to drive competitive advantage and support the growth of new and existing UK underwater businesses.”
It will also provide access to the largest, cross-sector underwater community in the world and offer commercially driven market intelligence, expertise, contacts and specialist support to accelerate business growth and build value in the UK’s underwater industry.
Subsea Expo 2022 takes place a full two years after more than 6,600 delegates attended the last event, one of the biggest attendances on record in the event’s 15-year history.
Gordon says that the event comes at a pivotal time for the industry as it prepares for life post-pandemic.
“Subsea Expo 2022 provides the platform for the industry to come together in person, to share their ideas and expertise, to showcase new technology and to engage with one another as we look towards an incredibly exciting time for the industry. Subsea Expo has always facilitated meaningful industry discussion, valuable connections and cross-sector collaboration. These are needed more now than ever before.
“The way we have worked and conducted business over the past two years may have changed, but that doesn’t mean that things have stood still,” he said. “Companies operating in the underwater arena have continued to innovate, demonstrating their expertise by developing world-leading technology and honing new skills which have maintained the UK industry’s position as a global leader. The pace of energy transition has picked up dramatically and most underwater companies are playing a vital role in that journey to net-zero.”
Entrance to the exhibition and conference is free of charge. Pre-registration is recommended via the website – www.subseaexpo.com.