Newcastle yard awarded key contract for offshore wind farm

A contract for assembling pioneering suction bucket foundations for Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) has helped safeguard around 35 jobs and create up to another 105 positions in Newcastle-upon-Tyne after being awarded to Smulders Projects.

The company will carry out the work on the 11 foundations at its Wallsend-based manufacturing facility which Smulders acquired from fabricator, OGN Group, at the end of last year. In the longer-term, the total number of around 140 jobs involved in the work could more than double to around 400 posts as a result of the contract, underpinning the region’s Northern Powerhouse reputation.

The ground-breaking 92.4MW EOWDC, off Aberdeen Bay, is believed to be one of the first UK offshore wind projects where suction buckets will be deployed on a large scale. Through being paired with 11 of the world’s most powerful turbines, the suction buckets will also create an industry first.

Adam Ezzamel, project director for the EOWDC at Vattenfall, said: “This latest contract award follows successful trials of the game-changing buckets and as a leading fabrication specialist for the wind sector, we’re pleased that Smulders will be carrying out the assembly work in Newcastle.

”The buckets enable faster offshore installation of the EOWDC, while keeping noise to a minimum, and allow easier decommissioning as the installation process is reversed. As such, the technology will contribute to driving down the cost of clean power as offshore wind moves into deeper waters and more complex seabed conditions.”

Smulders’ 300,000m² manufacturing hub in Newcastle, which continues to support OGN’s operations, has facilities for constructing jackets and substations. Since taking it over, the company has also invested in additional lifting capacity including two gantry cranes which can each lift up to 600 tonnes. In addition, work is underway to install a large ring crane with a lifting capacity of 3,200 tonnes.

David Muylaert, deputy managing director, at Smulders Group, said: “We are convinced that with expanding our production platform with this new facility in Newcastle upon Tyne, we not only added local content in the UK and an additional production capacity within the Smulders group, but also have created an excellent base close to the renewable and offshore market within the UK.

“In particular, for the Aberdeen Bay project, we are going to use this yard for the fabrication of the lower parts of the jacket structures and to do the final assembly of all associated parts. This has been made possible by means of the necessary investments in lifting facilities which we did on our yard.”

North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon, who actively supported OGN’s call to Government to generate more UK content in offshore wind developments, said: “I’m really pleased Smulders has shown confidence in North Tyneside and invested in the former OGN site in Wallsend. The fact that they have already won a contract to provide employment is indeed good news. I look forward to working with them in the future, in any way I can, to help secure work in my constituency.”

Smulders was awarded the EOWDC contract by Boskalis which is the overall Tier 1 supplier of the scheme’s offshore balance of plant (BoP) work for the construction and installation (EPCI) of the offshore infrastructure including the foundations and cabling.

Taco Terpstra, project director at Boskalis, said: “The final assembly of the complete foundations at the site in Newcastle upon Tyne allows Boskalis a much shorter sailing distance from the load-out location to the site offshore with all benefits for our logistics chain.”

Smulders’ contract for the EOWDC is the latest in a series that have been awarded over the past six months for the pioneering project with a considerable extent of UK supply chain success. Other Tier 1 contractors appointed were MHI Vestas to supply the turbines and which is fabricating the 80m blades at its Isle of Wight factory while London-headquartered J Murphy and Sons Limited is providing the onshore substation and associated cabling work.
Hartlepool-based JDR is to deliver the 66kV inter-array and export cables, representing the first deployment of this innovative technology, and Babcock in Rosyth is deploying its floating LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to provide offshore wind data to the EOWDC.

Vattenfall has also signed leases totalling 24 years with Aberdeen Harbour Board, becoming the first offshore wind operator to invest long term in the port’s facilities.