Following the recent announcement that Barge Master and Bayards are working together on designing a Motion Compensated Helideck (MCH), the system has already raised quite an interest from the offshore energy industry.
Engineer on the MCH project, Robert Valk and Karien Hofhuis, Barge Master’s Marketing Manager, provided Offshore WIND with details about the system and the design’s growing popularity within the industry.
How was the idea of the Motion Compensated Helideck born and what did the path look like until you got to the final design?
The offshore industry is a great example of an industry in which safety is crucial and downtime is unwanted due to high operational cost. Barge Master focusses on preventing downtime and increasing safety by compensating the unwanted motions of equipment. A great example of a product development that shows this philosophy is the Barge Master T700. The T700 is a product that creates a working platform for equipment such as crawler cranes.
The company’s philosophy has been expanded from lifting operations to increasing the safety and reducing the downtime of offshore helicopter operations. Some of the initial questions were:
-How can we enhance the safety of helicopter operations in offshore conditions?
-What if a specialist service engineer cannot get to the vessel due to excessive helideck motions?
-What if a vessel has to change course in order to create safe helicopter landing conditions?
-What if a crew change cannot take place due to rough seas?
In order to solve these questions, a partnership was created between Barge Master and Bayards Aluminium Constructies. Together with Bayards, a concept was developed in which Bayards used their expertise in the design of aluminium helidecks and Barge Master used their expertise on motion compensation.
This cooperation distilled to a design in which three Degrees of Freedom of the helideck are motion compensated by means of hydraulic cylinders. By doing so, it is possible to minimize the motion of the helideck in Heave, Sway and Roll direction. The result is an elegant design of a Motion Compensated Helideck that has been revealed to the offshore industry at the OTC Houston ’14.
Were there any obstacles during the development of the MCH?
The biggest obstacle was determining what features and performance the offshore industry would want to get from a Motion Compensated Helideck. This required combining the experience, wishes and requirements from helicopter and vessel operators.
Another obstacle was integrating the Motion Compensated Helideck in a particular design of a vessel.
Please, tell us more about the testing phase of the helideck.
At the time of this interview, the Motion Compensated Helideck is a concept that has not been built yet. However, first results in terms of simulations are promising. Thankfully, the offshore industry responded very positively to the Motion Compensated Helideck concept revealed at the OTC Houston ’14, hopefully allowing us to build the first system soon.
We learned that you were developing a smaller version of the MCH, so could you give us any details about that?
The design revealed at the OTC Houston ’14 is a full blown helideck with a “D” value of 23 m. This helideck design suits the requirements of an EH-101/AW-101 with a Maximum TakeOff Weight of 14.6 mT. This helideck design is larger than required for many potential clients.
The concept is however fully scalable, resulting in a design that suits the specific requirements of a client.
Are there maybe any plans to build a larger model, too?
The interested parties indicate that the MCH size is sufficient. Therefore, Barge Master and Bayards are not yet developing a larger scale MCH.
Are there any orders already for the MCH? If so, in which offshore industry are those clients operating?
There is sufficient interest from various clients, mainly in the oil & gas industry, who want to implement this system. Each MCH is a custom built project. Hence Bayards is now in discussion with these potential clients to identify their specific wishes.
Will the companies achieve notable financial benefits by using the MCH and in which way?
Companies using an MCH system will certainly see financial benefits. Although the initial purchasing costs may be higher than conventional helidecks, it does not weigh up against the operational benefits.
The MCH allows operators to transfer crew and supply equipment by using a helicopter even in large wave heights. This should be compared to a vessel not being able to operate or one that would have to sail to and from the port for crew transfer.
How did the final design of the system benefit from your cooperation with Bayards? In what way did Bayards' construction expertise contribute to the system?
The cooperation was needed in order to get to a product design that was ‘smart and innovative’, ‘structurally sane’ and complies with all the required safety standards.
Barge Master had never designed a helideck support structure before. A similar situation holds for Bayards, who had limited experience on hydraulics and motion systems. By working closely together, the expertise from both companies merged into one product.
What are your projections for the company's growth in the near future? Do you forecast a significant demand for motion compensated systems and in which sector specifically?
We are experiencing an increasing demand for motion compensation systems. We have many inquiries for the T700 and T40, especially from the O&G and OSW markets. Our T700 system will be used by Boskalis this year, and our T40 system is being integrated with Wagenborg’s walk-to-work vessel. There is great interest for the T40 from many ship builders of which some have already integrated the system in their vessel design.
In general, motion compensation technology is getting more accepted in the market and the added value of our systems is being recognised. It is an important feature for the next generation vessels where safety and workability are of crucial importance.
It is a matter of time before these systems are the new standard, and Barge Master is ready to take the challenge.