Case: Excellent opportunities for VBMS in the renewable energy market
Prospects are good for the market for near and offshore wind farms in the next few years. Our strategic joint venture vBMS (volkerWessels Boskalis Marine Solutions) is active in this market as a cable-laying company. This combination of specialized volkerWessels and Boskalis companies has everything it needs to strengthen its leading position in northwest Europe.
“Pooling resources with VolkerWessels in the area of offshore cable installation was a good move,” according to Peter Devinck, Business Unit Director Subsea Contracting at Boskalis. “Together we form an excellent combination; the parent companies’ various disciplines and expertise complement each other well: dredging and rock installation work combined with horizontal directional drilling and laying and connecting the cables to the wind turbine (termination). VolkerWessels has extensive experience with cable-laying projects in the North Sea while Boskalis has the knowledge of the soil conditions and working conditions at sea. Add to that the well-trained staff with international operational knowledge and experience, the ships and the support equipment and what you have is a great company.”
Wind projects in Europe
For the time being VBMS will focus on Northwest Europe given that several offshore wind farms are scheduled for construction here. Devinck: “In 2014 the situation surrounding wind energy looked less rosy for a while because of a lack of clarity with regard to various governments’ subsidy policies. The German and British governments postponed projects, while the Netherlands changed its policy and revoked licenses. Now we can see the market picking up again. However, decision-making processes on offshore wind farms are long, which means that we expect 2015 to be a relatively quiet year. But for 2016 through 2020 there are many wind projects in the pipeline again, in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. And for 2016 we already have projects such as Sandbank and Dudgeon in the order book. On balance, the order book of VBMS at 100 per cent was EUR 260 million at the end of 2014.”
Change in demand
VBMS is seeing clients take a different approach. “It used to be the case that wind park owners would enter into a separate contract for each individual part of this kind of project. Now clients prefer to do business with a single party or a consortium with the ability to provide an integrated solution. They are already in talks with cable-laying companies for projects scheduled for development in 2017 to 2020. Another development is that clients are asking VBMS to supply the cable as well.”
VBMS handles various activities on a project. “We supply the cable, lay the cable, handle the connection to the offshore converter station, realize the shore approach and landfall and connect the cable to the high-voltage grid,” explained Devinck. For the laying and burying of cables in the seabed VBMS is able to deploy not only its state-of-the-art cable-laying vessels the Stemat Spirit and the Ndurance but also the Trenchformer. This specialized unmanned vehicle was developed speci.cally to enable long interconnector cables to be the laid and buried in a single run. The Trenchformer moves across the seabed on rubber tracks and its ability to either jet or cut a cable trench means that it is able to work in both loose sandy soil and in stiffer clay. “For the Luchterduinen wind farm project off the Dutch west coast the .rst three kilometers of cable had to be laid in very shallow water. A cable-laying vessel would not have been able to get close enough to the shore. But the Trenchformer was: it laid and buried the cable at a depth of up to three meters in one run. The remaining 22 kilometers were laid by our specialist vessel the Ndurance, after which the Trenchformer also buried this section of the cable. This demonstrates that our equipment gives us the flexibility we need to be able to operate in all sorts of different circumstances,” said Devinck.
With a revenue of EUR 221 million and EBITDA of EUR 23 million VBMS had a successful 2014. “Utilization of the vessels was high,” said Devinck. “We carried out cable-laying work for projects including the Butendiek, Nordsee Ost, Baltic 1, Dantysk and Humber Gateway wind farms. Another attractive activity in addition to laying cables is inspecting, maintaining and repairing them. Cables regularly get damaged and we have already carried out a few repair projects. Taking on this sort of work as well is good for the utilization of the fleet.”
VBMS is also involved in laying interconnection cables between countries or islands. In April 2014 the Ndurance was deployed to carry out this kind of job between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java. VBMS is seeing growing demand for this type of solution. Further opportunities lie in the offshore oil and gas industry, both in the North Sea and elsewhere around the world, for example the installation of flexible flowlines or umbilical cables. “In 2014 we installed a 20-kilometer umbilical cable for the Wintershall offshore gas platform in the North Sea. The client was so satisfied that we have been asked to lay a second cable in the third quarter of 2015. Another trend we see emerging is for offshore platforms in the Middle East to obtain their power supply from the shore, which requires reversed power cables. This is another development that presents opportunities for VBMS and so we are watching it closely.”
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