Vallourec Tests Its Foundation Technology at New Hannover Facility

The commercialization of the offshore foundation system PREON® marine is making progress: Vallourec is the first company to put its foundation technology to the acid test at the new Test Center for Support Structures at the Leibnitz University of Hannover (LUH). The new facility will distinctly shorten the time to market of the new load-bearing structure of seamless tubes.

The Center was opened after two years of construction and complements the available large testing facilities for wind turbines in Germany. Totally 26 million Euros were invested in the project, of that about 18 million provided by the German government. From now on, experts of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy Systems Technology (IWES) and from different LUH institutes, together with government authorities and industry customers will test and examine components of load-bearing structures as well as foundations of wind turbines in a hall that is almost 20 meters high.

”The inauguration marks a milestone in interdisciplinary research. The test facility can make a major contribution to optimizing onshore and offshore wind energy system,“ LUH President Erich Barke said at the official inauguration ceremony early in September. Lower Saxony’ Minister President Stephan Weil added that electricity from offshore facilities may turn out to be the most cost-effective and environmentally most friendly type of electricity production. Wind research is going “full steam ahead” with the new Test Center.

Vallourec will be in the forefront of those taking advantage of wind innovations. “We are there whenever new trails are blazed in the world’s energy markets, also in wind energy,” Andreas Denker, head of the Vallourec Industry Division, underlines. The common structures by which offshore turbines are anchored today are too heavy and cost too much. PREON® marine is less heavy and makes building foundations easier, Denker insisted.

The Vallourec tubular system solution distributes the load of the stability structures such as jackets and tripods in different ways than today’s common anchoring solutions. Instead of driving piles up to 60 meters deep into the ground, the piles of the Vallourec construction, for which a patent application has been filed, require only about 20 meters of foundation. Besides, the outside diameter of the new piles is substantially smaller than that of the marine piles used so far. “With PREON® marine, therefore, a stable foundation can be constructed with much less force, very much less noise, distinctly less material and a lot quicker,” Denker adds.

Vallourec and IWES experts jointly developed PREON® marine for the past two years. The mathematical proof that the structure withstands the rough conditions at sea has already been submitted by them. Now the results will be underpinned by practical tests at the Test Center. The facility includes a foundation engineering pit ten meters deep in which experiments to study the structural behavior of structures under cyclic stress can be made.

As a next step Vallourec plans to set up an offshore turbine together with the PREON® marine solution in a North Sea test field.

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Press Release, August 25, 2014; Image: uni-hannover
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