Albert van der Wiel is a Planner and Scheduler, who has assisted companies in delivering their projects across a variety of complex industries, including offshore windfarms and major FPSOs.
Planners are crucial to ensuring projects are delivered on time and on budget. If you’re curious about what goes on behind the scenes, no one is better than them.
We had an interesting discussion about offshore windfarms and the differences between oil and gas.
Could you please explain what a Planner is and how it fits in with delivering a project.
Every company, contractors and operators, has a scheduler or planner that covers different aspects of a particular project.
After obtaining a permit to construct a windfarm the operating company creates a high-level schedule that is then integrated into the FID (Final Investment Decision), and a more detailed schedule.
This schedule is an outline of key moments during the development and is attached to your contract.
The bid-winning contractor then begins providing engineering/construction services — but they can’t begin until their planner develops a detailed implementation schedule.
Both engineering and installation schedules can be developed simultaneously and are very extensive.
How do you build a windfarm offshore?
Parts are made at different locations around the globe and must be transported to the marshalling yards within a given time.
This requires a lot of work in procurement and logistics. There are many things to do: inquires, requests for quotes, orders placed and so forth.
The parts must then be loaded onto a boat and taken to the place for installation.
Installation is performed in two campaigns: Piling/Foundation, Jackets, Nacelles, Rotors and cabling to connect the windfarm back to the grid.
You should finish one campaign by the end of the season in order to start the next campaign.
What are the biggest challenges faced by an offshore wind farm?
Logistics are important and complicated. Although installing a jacket or pillow is easy, getting all components on site in the right order, taking into account all vessel movements, can be very challenging and can pose a risk.
Environment conditions can pose risks to ships, equipment, and people working offshore. Weather, waves and currents must all be constantly monitored and evaluated.
It is also difficult to find the time — the North Sea has an active season from April through September because of the weather. Everything must fit within this period.
It is a waste of time to transport/sail equipment.
What is the difference between offshore wind and oil and gas?
It depends on your job. Some disciplines are more suited to wind than others. Planners can apply their skills to all projects. The main differences are terminology and how contracts are executed.
Oil and Gas installations can be relatively simple. You only need to do one or two topsides before moving on to the next task. Wind works in a more sequential manner, with different phases. Each step is completed in turn: all the jackets and all the turbines. There can be hundreds of turbines, creating logistical challenges.
Offshore wind projects are broken down into stages because the equipment isn’t available to install large projects all at once. It is crucial to have schemes developed in two or three phases for large projects like Moray East/West, Dogger Bank 1/2/3 and Moray East/West.
Wind has more milestones than Oil and Gas and has to pay more penalties. Operators and their contracts drive the milestones.
Why is it more difficult to build offshore wind farms in the US than in Europe?
The USA has a problem, especially on the East coast. There is not enough infrastructure. Everything is located in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Oil and Gas Industry is based; there are many vessels and marshalling yards there, but they are not available on East coast.
Developers face a major problem with manufacturing. There are not enough facilities in America to produce monopiles or foundation piles. They must be made in Europe, then shipped to the USA. This is both logistical and costly. In the future, it could be more cost-effective to increase manufacturing capacity in the USA.
A second thing is that the waters are only owned by a few states. This means there is competition among them for who builds the facilities and yards that can store and transport piles of jackets. Companies looking to develop projects must speak with each state individually and negotiate distinct elements with them – all these risk elements need to be considered during the construction phase.
These problems are less important in Europe, where the North Sea is so developed because of the Oil and Gas industry and its facilities.
Yes, infrastructure exists. The infrastructure in the UK is much better than that of Denmark. Smulders & SIF are a joint venture in Belgium and the Netherlands. Smulders construct foundations and jackets while SIF makes monopiles & foundation piles.
What are your future plans?
To deliver their services more efficiently, the old European Oil and Gas companies are creating consortiums. They have more than 50 years of experience in delivering projects in North Sea. The principles are very similar: a facility offshore (foundation, topside), infrastructure to connect with shore, facilities onshore to get the power.
Operators will be looking to extend their contracts for vessels as projects grow in size, much like Oil and Gas operators did long-term contracts for drilling vessels.
Companies are already building vessels that can meet these new requirements. They have different characteristics depending on what they will be used in the installation phase.