Collaborative approach solves maintenance problem at Princess Amalia
Hertel’s offshore rope access team worked with its client to overcome a number of unique logistical challenges when carrying out work at the Princess Amalia offshore wind farm in the North Sea. This collaborative approach led to the development of a bespoke software package to help track long-term maintenance requirements at the site.
The Princess Amalia wind farm, a special purpose company 50% owned by Eneco, is 23km west of IJmuiden on the coast of the Netherlands. Recognised as being one of the world’s furthest wind farms from shore, and in water up to 24m deep, its remote location means that all work at the site needs to be carefully planned.
Hertel’s involvement at Princess Amalia started in 2008 when it was asked to check and repair the coating status of the turbines at the end of the build process.
Since then, Hertel’s project manager Merijn Buitelaar has built a strong relationship with the owners of the wind farm. The company’s knowledge and skills have been used in various projects since then where Hertel’s multi-disciplinary teams have completed a wide variety of inspections on the turbine’s transition pieces and have prepared a timetable for completing this work in the future.
Tackling logistical challenges
Merijn says: “The wind farm’s location presents logistical challenges. Compared with oil and gas platforms, wind farms do not have wide docking and boarding facilities and weather conditions can impact on working hours.
“We are also restricted in when we can carry out certain tasks. For example, repairing the coatings on the transition pieces cannot be completed if there is too much moisture in the air and so this work cannot be carried out in the traditionally wet months of September and October.”
In such circumstances, planning work schedules is crucial and adopting a more strategic, long-term approach has the potential to cut the time required for maintenance and therefore make significant cost savings.
Hertel has worked closely with the client team at Princess Amalia to develop a tailor-made software package to plan and assist in scheduling long-term maintenance work at the wind farm.
Merijn explains: “We have a strong depth of experience across many disciplines and of working with similar structures both on- and offshore. This knowledge can be applied to a wide variety of scenarios and helped in the development of Princess Amalia’s inspections’ timetable.
“Key factors need to be taken into account when analysing the impact of the degradation of the transition piece over time and a bespoke rating system was developed to track these. Each parameter was put into a category, based on when it was likely to need attention in the future.
“The software can then be used to make predictions as to the future state of the turbine, and plan ongoing maintenance work. The status of a wide range of inspections, including coating repairs, wall thickness, welds, bolt tensioning, mechanical integrity and a number of safety issues can also be tracked using the software.
“At Princess Amalia, this bespoke maintenance prediction software package, which was developed by working closely with the client, has helped us to successfully complete the overall inspection of work at a hard-to-reach location.”
Whilst the software package was being developed, Hertel used flexible, multi-disciplined personnel to ensure the initial inspection work was completed in time.
Merijn continues: “Our team at Princess Amalia was carefully selected because of the knowledge they have across many disciplines. This means we could be extremely flexible, save transfer time and reduce the number of personnel that needed to be transported to the wind farm during the project. These time-saving measures all led to the inspection programme being completed ahead of schedule.”
Bastiaan Donders, Contract Manager at Eneco, was delighted with the work that Hertel has completed at Princess Amalia. He says: “Hertel’s previous offshore rope access experience certainly benefitted the project as they were able to devise a bespoke cost-effective and safe inspection programme. By using a multi-disciplined team Hertel was also able to minimise downtime during the project. The strong relationship built with Hertel’s project manager has ensured the team understood exactly what needed to be done.
“As a result of this, Hertel has been awarded a five year contract to work at Princess Amalia. The software programme will be a fantastic asset for years to come as it can plan the inspections timetable.”
Merijn concludes: “We are already working to expand the technology, to provide real time updates so the client can log on and see images that are uploaded as the inspection is being carried out.
“We have worked closely with the team at Princess Amalia wind farm to develop this bespoke software. The maintenance planning package has the potential to be adapted to work elsewhere and we have the skills and expertise to solve almost any problem related to rope access for any client.”
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