Great report from OWJ andDujon Goncalves-Collins
Far-offshore projects due to be developed in the UK’s Round 3 will be significantly more complex in terms of logistics and are likely to drive demand for new operational solutions making use of helicopters
As offshore windfarms are built further and further from the shore, so transferring personnel to them by vessel becomes more challenging from an operational and economic point of view. Developers planning to build Round 3 windfarms and companies likely to be involved in operations and maintenance know that new solutions will be required and that, inevitably, helicopters will play a much greater role in future.
As highlighted previously in OWJ, helicopters are increasingly being used in the offshore wind industry in the UK and elsewhere as windfarms are built further from shore. They are already being used on some projects, such as Greater Gabbard and Westermost Rough, and as Dong Energy’s programme manager for Hornsea Project One Duncan Clark recently told OWJ, helicopters could have a role on that project too, given its distance from the shore.
Highlighting growing demand for helicopter services, Vattenfall issued a requirement for a provider of helicopter services for the DanTysk, Sandbank, Horns Rev 1 and Horn Rev 3 offshore windfarms. Tenders were due to be submitted by 20 September, and the firm contract will last for two years. Under the terms of the proposed deal, a €6 million framework agreement will be divided into two lots, with the first covering crew transfers, either on a fixed day or on demand, of up to 12 persons to and from the windfarm. The second lot covers troubleshooting activities including hoisting operations.
Operators are obviously also picking up on the growing demand for helicopters in offshore wind operations, and other companies in the offshore wind supply chain also recognise the growing role that helicopters are likely to play in the industry, one example being Fred Olsen Windcarrier, which has proposed a stand-alone offshore heliport concept that will enable the offshore wind industry to integrate helicopter use into the operations and maintenance on far-from-shore offshore windfarms. As Fred Olsen Windcarrier noted recently, and as also reported by OWJ, unlike the offshore oil and gas sector, the offshore wind industry has until now not had the inbuilt infrastructure to make use of helicopters effectively. However, the company believes this is set to change with the introduction of concepts such as its offshore wind heliport – a landing base fixed to the seabed within the turbine array that forms part of the company’s Windbase concept.
Speaking to OWJ in October, Dujon Goncalves-Collins, director of policy – technologies at RenewableUK, explained that, although helicopters would be “complementary” to other logistics solutions, rather than replacing the use of vessels to transfer personnel to and from and within windfarms, demand for helicopters could increase significantly in the next 10–15 years.
He explained that, currently on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), helicopters support approximately700 megawatts (MW) out of a total of around 5 gigawatts (GW) of operational windfarms in the UK. At the moment, they account for only around 2 per cent of all offshore helicopter round trips in the North Sea portion of the UKCS, by far the greatest use being in the offshore oil and gas industry.
However, he said that, looking ahead, this number could increase significantly. “From the operations supporting Greater Gabbard and Westermost Rough today, we can expect others to be serviced by full-time helicopter contracts by the end of this decade,” he told OWJ. “By 2020, we could expect that 3GW of the planned 10GW of operational windfarms will be supported by helicopters, which could equate to the percentage of round trips rising to 10 per cent.” By 2030, he explained, the figures could increase to 10GW of a total 20GW of operational windfarms and account for around 20 per cent of all round trips in the UK sector of the North Sea.
“Driving down costs is probably the most important economic issue for the offshore wind industry,” said Mr Goncalves-Collins. “Safety is the other overriding issue, and statistically, helicopters have a good track record. For the time being, experience with helicopters has been limited to one or two full-time contracts to provide support in UK waters and some looser, ad hoc arrangements, but developers are already looking at a range of options for new projects and there are already some tenders out there that would see more extensive use of helicopters. At the same time, we know that helicopter operators who are not already active in the industry – including some who are not already active in the offshore oil and gas sector – are showing ever-greater interest in it, and a number have already joined RenewableUK.”
Demand for helicopters is likely to take the form of transfer operations, moving windfarm technicians from the shore to a windfarm, a range of operations within far-offshore windfarms and hoisting operations for personnel once they are in a windfarm. For obvious reasons, crew transfer operations are likely to use larger aircraft, but smaller units are better suited to in-farm operations such as hoisting. Mr Goncalves-Collins said that, although helicopter operations are new to many companies in the offshore wind industry, experience to date suggests they are dedicating sufficient resources and expertise to the issue and that consultants are being made use of where necessary.
He cited the example of the Greater Gabbard offshore windfarm, which is jointly owned by SSE and RWE, and operated by SSE from its Lowestoft operations and maintenance base. The windfarm lies approximately 26km from the coast of Suffolk, and helicopters are used to complement conventional crew transfer vessels. He explained that the operation was set up in partnership with the helicopter operator (Babcock International Mission Critical Services) and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority. “Much was learned from the oil and gas sector’s advice, experience and training,” he noted, although due to differences in the nature of the operations, some ‘out of the box’ problem solving had to be employed to ensure the finalised operations were signed off as being safe and effective. The lessons from the setup and the operations have been shared with RenewableUK during the development of the Offshore Renewables Aviation Guidance (ORAG) document, which was unveiled at Global Offshore Wind 2016.
Helicopter operations have been used for many years in the offshore oil and gas industry, but considerations around their use are less well understood in the renewables market, hence the need for guidance that has been produced recently by the Offshore Aviation Renewables Forum (ORAF). As previously highlighted by OWJ, ORAF and RenewableUK have been addressing the issue of growing use of helicopters for some time. They have interacted with their counterparts in the offshore oil and gas industry and are working to evolve offshore wind industry aviation operational requirements covering issues such as hoisting, winching, passenger transport, rapid response and variations in day/night operations. The overall aim of the work they have been doing is to reduce risk and establish a culture of transparency and knowledge sharing.
Helicopter operations to large offshore structures are likely to be similar to those within the oil and gas industry. Specialist operations, such as helicopter hoist, that also support the transfer of personnel and equipment are likely to be very different, says RenewableUK, noting that the expected growth in helicopter operations within the renewable energy sector should build on current offshore experience but start to define and align specific good practises that reflect the risk profile of the offshore wind industry in the UK. “If windfarm developers do not own and operate their own air assets, duty holder control and risk mitigation measures will be based on contractual and quality control systems. Duty holder aviation safety control measures should be implemented throughout the procurement and delivery process. Contractor pre-selection, based on safety management and performance, should occur before contract award, and contracts should allow for audit and quality assessments. Day-to-day operations should be monitored and controlled by duty holder representatives, and regular safety and quality audits should be conducted by specialists,” the ORAG document states.
ORAG was produced by a steering group of RenewableUK members with expertise in offshore aviation operations, offshore health and safety and risk management, offshore development and offshore operations, in consultation with regulators, air operators and offshore renewable developers, operators and wind turbine OEMs. It is intended as industry good practice and guidance and an indicator to organisations of the documents and procedures that should be considered when planning to incorporate helicopters into offshore wind logistics concepts.
The guidelines were written primarily from and for the perspective of organisations having primary responsibilities for and control over projects in the UK. During the planning, design and construction phases, these organisations are most likely to be the client, developer or principal contractor. During operations and maintenance, they are most likely to be the owner or operator.
ORAG notes that, whether a developer intends to use aviation or not, other airspace users from oil and gas to search and rescue may affect layout and operations. “As developments move further offshore, the use of aviation is expected to increase, and aviation must be considered integral to windfarm planning, consenting and implementation,” it says.
A very relevant safety alert and without doubt a read across to UK HEMS and Offshore Helideck Operations.
Congratulations to the team at King College Hospital for their hard work in bring this much needed capability. Jim Seager a friend of GDO has also been instrumental in developing the helipad team’s training and competency building package. Good job Jim!
The new helipad will save thousands of lives, helping the hospital serve its trauma population of 4.5 million people across south east London and Kent.
Built on top of the hospital’s 10-storey Ruskin Wing, the helipad has been made possible thanks to a multi-million-pound donation from the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal – the only charity in the country dedicated to funding the construction of hospital helipads. In addition, more than 2,600 patients, staff, and members of the local community generously donated £500,000 to the hospital’s Time is Life Appeal.
The helipad is the first in mainland UK to be equipped with a deck integrated firefighting (DIFF) system. This system automatically sprays foam from a series of nozzles installed into the helideck in the event of a fire, instead of relying on a team of fire fighters to manually extinguish it. Using the automated fire system will save the Trust £300,000 each year compared to employing firefighters, and it guarantees to extinguish a blaze within eight seconds. The system also frees up firefighters to work on the ground.
The new helipad will speed up the time it takes helicopters to transfer critically ill patients to King’s, and reduce ‘landing-to-resus’ transfer times to just five minutes. At present, helicopters land in nearby Ruskin Park and patients are transferred to King’s by road – a process which can take as long as 25 minutes.
Dr Malcolm Tunnicliff is Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine at King’s College Hospital. He is also Deputy Director of the South East London Kent and Medway (SELKaM) Major Trauma Network, and a doctor with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust – a charity providing a Helicopter Emergency Service (HEMS) to the south east of England, and is Governance Lead for the charity.
He said: “We are incredibly pleased that our helipad at King’s is operational. It’s a very positive development for the patients we treat and our staff, who go above and beyond every single day to save people’s lives. At King’s we treat some of the most seriously ill and critically injured patients in the south east. The helipad will speed up the time it takes to transfer patients from helicopter to hospital, giving patients the very best chance of survival.”
Mr Robert Bentley, Clinical Director of the King’s Trauma Centre (KTC) and South East London Kent and Medway (SELKaM) Major Trauma Network, added: “We are very grateful to the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal, plus the many other donors and fundraisers from across the King’s hospital community – without their generous contributions, the helipad would not have been possible.
“When a patient has experienced major trauma it is vital they get specialist treatment as quickly as possible. In these situations, time is life.
“We are proud to be the best performing major trauma network in the country, and our new helipad will help us continue our focus on delivering world-class trauma care, and saving even more lives.”
Robert Bertram, Chief Executive of the HELP Appeal which donated £2.75 million, including £500,000 towards the entire cost of the DIFF, explained the importance of the new system: “This automatic system is safer for everyone including emergency rescue teams as they can work alongside the spray activation to help with evacuating patients and staff from air ambulances. It has also been shown to put out fires really efficiently and isn’t affected by the wind – a must when the helipad is located on the roof of King’s College Hospital.
“Typically used on oil rigs, this is the first time DIFF will be used on a helipad in mainland UK where even though the chance of a fire is much lower, we feel reassured that if it ever does happen, we now have the best possible chance of getting the fire completely extinguished and critically ill patients can continue their journey to the Emergency Department quickly as possible.
“We have pledged £2.75 million to this helipad as we are fully aware of the drastic difference this helipad will make. Every second counts when a critical accident or injury happens, and the new helipad will make sure the most seriously ill or injured patients get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.”
TODAY 75 years ago Fairey Swordfish W5856 with the Royal Naval Historic Flight 9RNHF) took her maiden flight.
Members of the Royal Navy Historic Flight came together to celebrate this aircrafts significant birthday on this historic date that marks the victory won by the Royal Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 2016 , Commanded by Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson
Commanding Officer of RNHF Lieutenant Commander Chris Gotke AFC said;
It is a great honour and privilege to be the Commanding Officer of Royal Navy Historic Flight. We are very privileged to be able to celebrate today the oldest and only flying Mark 1 Swordfish Birthday today. She is 75 years old and fittingly flew first on Trafalgar Day.”
W5856 is the oldest surviving flying Fairey Swordfish in the world. She first flew on Trafalgar Day (21 October) 1941 and was a “Blackfish”, built by Blackburn Aircraft at Sherburn-in-Elmet and delivered to 82 MU (Lichfield) on 20 October 1941 for overseas transport to Gibraltar.
Tug Wilson Mechanical Supervisor on the Historic Flight added;
“It means a lot to me working on her keeping the aircraft in the air and remembering the people that actually flew them in times of conflict.”
W5856 served with the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet for a year. Little is known of her role while on active Service in the Mediterranean after which she was then returned to Fairey’s Stockport factory for refurbishment during winter 1942/43.
Used for advanced flying training and trials, the aircraft was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1944 for training and then stored in reserve after the War’s end. Passing through the hands of at least two civilian operators after disposal, she was purchased by Sir William Roberts and brought to Scotland to join his Strathallan Collection, arriving in crates in August 1977 in a badly corroded condition.
In 1990, the aircraft was bought by British Aerospace and completely restored to flying condition. Following a successful test flight at Brough in May 1993 she was gifted to the Royal Navy Historic Flight and three years later was adopted by the City of Leeds, in tribute to the local companies that built Swordfish components during World War II. She now wears the City’s coat of arms and name on her port side just forward of the pilot’s cockpit.
In 2003 and her future looked uncertain when grounded with corrosion however BAE Systems came to her rescue and constructed a new set of wings which were delivered to the Royal Navy Historic Flight in 2012 where W5856 was finally restored to full flying condition.
Dave Skiddy a Senior Mechanical Supervisor on the Historic Flight said;
“It’s an absolute privilege to maintain our naval history for the next generation of Fleet Air Arm Engineers.”
With a major grant from the Peter Harrison Heritage Foundation W5856 aircraft re-joined the display circuit in 2015, painted in the pre-war colours of 810 Squadron embarked in HMS Ark Royal. The horizontal stripes on the fin denote the Commanding Officer’s aircraft, and the blue and red fuselage stripes are the colours for Ark Royal with the letter code ‘A’ being for the ship, ‘2’ for the second squadron and ‘A’ for the first aircraft of that squadron. The long yellow fuselage strip identified 810 as Yellow Squadron in the summer air exercises held in 1939.
Lt Cdr Chris Gotke highlighted the importance of today in terms of our heritage and future saying;
“The Royal Navy has some of the world’s most cutting edge technology coming into service in the next few years in the form of Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers and the 5th Generation Lightning II multi-role fighter.
However, when looking to the future you must reflect on History. A little known aircraft that entered service in the Royal Navy was the Swordfish. She first operated on 825 NAS in 1936 and whilst being out of date then served as one of a few aircraft types all the way through the Second World War!
She operated in the longest battle of the war, the battle of the Atlantic. This lasted for 6 years as was basically the Battle for Britain, if we had lost the Atlantic convoys then the war would have ended. The Swordfish also carried out strategic attacks such as the Raid on Taranto removing the Italian fleet from the Second World War and allowed the Royal Navy to manoeuvre in the Mediterranean. Crews showed phenomenal heroism during the attack on the Bismarck and on the Channel Dash in an aircraft that only flies as fast as a car!
W5856 has a few more events this year including Remembrance at the Fleet Air Arm Memorial Church in Yeovilton before being taken down for Winter Servicing before the 2017 season begins.
Happy Birthday W5856!