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Underwater Drilling Robots for Wind Turbines to be Developed in North-East

27 October 2011

A marine drilling firm has signed a agreement with a remote technology firm to develop robots that can carry out deepwater installation work for offshore wind turbines.

Last night Darlington based Blade Offshore Services (BOS) announced it had signed up to the joint venture with subsea robotics firm SMD to develop the technology.

Under the joint venture, expected to be called SMD-BORD, the pair will develop remotely operated robotic devices they hope will offer an alternative to present installation methods for wind turbine foundations and tidal power devices.

They will use drilling technology developed by BOS, coupled with SMD's expertise in underwater robotics, including seabed tractors.

Tests on prototype equipment are due to begin in the near future.

John Swingler, director of drilling operations management for BOS, said: "BOS view this is a major milestone in the development of the remote drilling solutions for the marine renewables industry.

"The SMD-BORD joint venture will accelerate to market the design, engineering, fabrication and testing of the remote drilling technology and provide the industry with the solutions required for device installation engineering to move ahead."

Paul Hatchett, strategy manager at SMD, said: "This joint venture allows Blade Offshore Services and SMD to combine an innovative approach with proven engineering excellence and subsea systems experience.

"It fits absolutely with what SMD's Renewables business unit is about - using our subsea experience and engineering skills to solve the challenges around device and infrastructure installation."

Newcastle based SMD, which last year bought Hallin Robotics, of Malton, North Yorkshire, is one of the 19 founder members of the new

Energi Coast cluster group.

The group, announced last week, is a partnership of North-East firms involved in the fast-growing offshore wind sector.

Its members will work together to promote the region as a natural home for firms in the sector and join forces to secure work.

Durham City-based energy sector support organisation NOF Energy has led the formation of the Energi Coast group.

Joanne Leng, NOF Energy's director of business development and deputy Chair of Energi Coast, said: "The announcement of a joint venture between SMD and Blade Offshore Services illustrates the strength of the subsea industry and the potential this sector has to contribute to the economic wellbeing of the region.

"In addition it is becoming increasingly recognised the importance of the subsea oil and gas supply chain in assisting the new offshore renewables industry to move forward."