BLOG – 11.23.20

A Period of Transition

As strange as it sounds, change and transition has always been a constant for me. Whether it was by choice, or as a result of external industry factors, the effect was very similar and always exciting in different ways. I feel the latest landscape we see within the subsea industry is part of a global transition. 

With the much needed move to a sustainable energy mix, whether it be the transmission of carbon dioxide, hydrogen or indeed electrons, many of the same subsea engineering fundamentals still apply. The key skills that the subsea team in Xodus have developed collectively over their careers are not going anywhere. With new energies and technologies being discussed throughout the energy sector, proven engineering to support this shift, is going to be more important now, than it has ever been. 

From platform to shore the subsea and seabed challenges such as wave and current effects, fishing, shipping and seabed mobility are the same whether it is a cable or a pipeline.  The common goal to ensure appropriate design and the integrity of the infrastructure.  In short, to look at all the driving requirements to keep the water on the outside and the transported media on the inside.  Whether it is the dynamic analysis of a riser cable and moorings of a floating offshore wind platform, or a stability and protection assessment of an export cable, the engineering is very similar to that of flexible pipelines, risers and umbilicals. The development of tools and processes for the oil and gas industry have already been applied to power cables for decades. These cables were generally used to transfer power from topside or shore based power plants to key equipment and were only a very small part of an overall hydrocarbon development 

The key to transferable skills is to be able to understand where the differences lie and how to quantify them.  The materials and manufacturing technologies used in cables have a shared parentage with flexible pipelines, bonded hoses and umbilicals. They are all multi-layer composite structures, have a higher level of inherent flexibility compared to rigid pipelines, and require a specific understanding of their micro and macro propertiesThe differences therefore lie in understanding the key layer make up and behaviour of the cable types used. Pressure containment is not a driving case for cables as it is with a pipeline, but rather structural integrity of the conductors, axial capacity of the reinforcement and the interaction between layers under loading. Specific understanding of connection arrangements and how load transfer occurs at key interfaces is keyLong term integrity is now vital for the cable given tight project economics and warrants the same approach to risk as a pipeline in an oil and gas development.  

As with oil and gas, the renewables sector works to specific standards and codes. These have come a long way, particularly in the case of cables, in the last decadeThey have been developed in line with major offshore wind developments that have come into operation. Many learnings have already been fed back into these and this will continue as the installed inventory of export and interconnectors increases.  

These learnings are complemented and reinforced by applying the same critical thinking that subsea engineers have applied to the same family of flexible multi-layer composite structures for many decades. We are all talking the same language.  

The Xodus subsea team has already successfully transitioned these skills to apply to many major export cable and interconnector projects Over the last decade Xodus has supported many of the major subsea power cable and interconnector projects . This has involved: cable package management, engineering services including route engineering, burial and protection, client representation during surveys and offshore installation works. Through this experience and jointly authoring the CTC835 Cable Burial Risk Assessment Methodology Xodus has been intimately involved in the development of best practice approaches. 

The complexity and volume of work, delivered by Xodus over the last 10 years, would not have been possible without the support of our subsea discipline. The integration of this team into the wider Xodus Renewables offering will be key to us ensuring we can deliver a responsible energy future. 

I believe this change is already underway. The underlying engineering basics are very familiar but the adaptation and development of them is the most inspiring part. I am very much looking forward to where this transition will lead us next.  

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