Oil and Gas Know How Could Help Renewable Industry (UK)

The renewable energy industry is developing rapidly in response to ambitious targets set by the UK government. As a nation, they’ve got to reduce CO2 emissions and increase power generation from renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal power.

They are, literally, at sea in new territory and as a consequence may suffer from a skills shortage in the renewable energy sector. This is where Jee has found their experience in the oil and gas industry is lending a helping hand.

In 2009 the UK government set a target of getting 15% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020; almost a seven-fold increase in the share of renewables in more than a decade. It also planned to create up to half a million jobs as a result of around £100 billion investment. Whatever your opinion on renewable power, it is clear it is here to stay.

The UK renewable energy strategy also aims to tackle climate change by reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions by over 750 million tonnes by 2030. One of the ways it is planning on doing this is through carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques. The basic principle of this sees CO2 being separated from waste gasses at power plants (either pre- or post-combustion) and transported to a storage location, generally in reservoirs beneath the surface of the earth. At Jee, we have found that our experience gained in the oil and gas industry transfers itself well to these types of projects.

Our experienced pipeline design engineers are now tackling the problem of safely transporting liquid CO2 at very high pressures to storage sites beneath the seabed. They are also assessing the suitability of existing pipeline infrastructure for the same purpose. Likewise geologists are now looking at the best ways to fill a reservoir, instead of emptying it; enhanced oil recovery (EOR) being a technique used to do both.

The fundamentals of the engineering work remain the same, whether designing a pipeline for oil extraction or carbon dioxide injection. It is imperative that lessons learned from the extensive haul of pipeline projects over the last 40 years are put into practice for the emerging CCS projects. In fact, we’re seeing engineers from the oil and gas industry being hunted for their expertise in developing this concept.

Our young aspiring engineers are fully aware of the shift in attitude towards greener energy and the resulting demand for associated skills. At Jee Ltd we run training courses predominantly for clients in the oil and gas sector but our subsea engineering techniques can be applied to any subsea application. For example, Jee carries out cable monitoring for subsea export and array cables in wind farms. This stems from our experience in pipeline span vibration monitoring and flexible and umbilical analyses. Due to scour around wind turbine monopiles, fatigue on subsea array cable spans is a common concern which as yet has not been extensively researched. Obviously failure of such a cable could be catastrophic.

Mike Hawkins, Technical Director at Jee Ltd, says, “The oil and gas industry is not always seen in a positive light. But the experience gained from the successes and failures within the oil and gas industry should not be overlooked. Disasters such as oil spills and platform fires have given us the safe practises we use today. New risks and dangers will present themselves as we move into the developing renewables industry and, as always, the priority is safety. I believe the knowledge gained from the oil and gas industry will help scale the steep learning curve we have to climb so that we meet the targets of 2020 and beyond.”

Case study:

Cable span monitoring on a wind farm

By strapping accelerometers to individual cable spans and linking the logged data to a remote network we can access data in real time and see what cables were doing only an hour ago. This means immediate analysis of cable motion after suitable stormy conditions is possible and fatigue behaviour of the cable can swiftly be determined. This knowledge is a great asset to the operators, who are increasingly looking to the skills and experience from the oil and gas industry to solve their renewable energy problems.

“This article will appear in Energy International magazine, July 2011”

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Source: jee, June 23, 2011; Image: bowind

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