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Renewables demand results in new guidance for offshore ground investigation

Challenges presented by the emerging market of offshore renewable energy projects is the main driver behind new guidance for ground investigation launched by a committee of the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT) yesterday.

Publication of the Guidance Notes for the Planning and Execution of Geophysical and Geotechnical Ground Investigations for Offshore Renewable Energy Developments is the result of three years of work by SUT’s Offshore Site Investigation and Geotechnics Committee.

“Offshore site investigation is a specialist area and the growth of projects in the renewable energy market presents new challenges that we felt needed to be addressed to aid both clients operating in this market and also practictioners,” said guidance note editor Mick Cook. “The drive towards round three of the offshore wind projects has created a need for this guidance rather than continuing to use the same approach that is applied to oil and gas schemes.

“When you consider that 25 to 40% of the capex of renewable projects relates to the foundations it is clear that ground investigation is a key phase in the development.

“During the development of the notes we found evidence that around 80% of insurance claims result from the cable installations for these projects so we have included site investigation techniques for this part of the project too as we felt it is often an afterthought in many schemes.”

According to Cook, although the offshore wind market drove the need for the guidance the result is aimed at any offshore renewable project. The guidance creates a framework designed to help mitigate the risks associated with construction, safety and environment through correct design of the ground investigation phase.

“The document reference existing guidance and learns from previous guidelines to present what the committee felt represents best practice for this market,” said Cook.

The guidance is split into a number of sections that address management of the risks, development of the ground model, comparison and limitations of different geophysical and geotechnical techniques and interpretation and reporting.

Contributors to the development were drawn from across the industry and included Gardline’s Andy Barwise, Offshore Wind Consultants Will Cleverley, independent consultant Ray Hobbs, Fugro’s Tony Hodgson, RPS Energy’s Leo James, Mainstream’s Chris Jenner, Lloyd’s Register’s Neil Morgan, Dong’s Alastair Muir Wood, Senergy’s Richard Orren, Vattenfall’s Julian Osborne, Subsea 7’s Rupert Rowland and former RWE employee Charles Wark.

Cook added that the committee had benefited from input from other major clients, consultants and contractors, as well as Crown Estates and the British Geological Survey, during the draft stages of the guidance.

Although the guidance has been developed for the UK market, Cook said that the committee had already received requests for translation of the document into French, German and Chinese.

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