Insight

Port of Rotterdam attracts offshore wind

Source: Port of Rotterdam Authority

Strategic hub for offshore wind farms in the North Sea and beyond
Up to now, the port of Rotterdam, the largest seaport in Europe, has played a negligible role in the construction of offshore wind farms in Europe. But that is about to change. On Maasvlakte 2, Sif Group and Verbrugge International are building a dedicated offshore terminal and a production site for monopiles under the name Offshore Terminal Rotterdam. A unique combination that will play an important role in the construction of offshore wind farms in the North Sea and elsewhere.

“With a further increase in scale, not only in wind turbines and parts, but also in the necessary equipment, such as larger ships, greater draught and heavier cargoes, ports must be able to keep up with this growth,” says Joost Eenhuizen, business manager Offshore at the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Rotterdam is able to do this and is well positioned in relation to large sections of the as yet undeveloped offshore wind areas.”

Market leader in monopiles

The arrival of Sif means that the market leader in foundations for offshore wind in the North Sea will be coming to Rotterdam. The company has 65 years of experience in the production of steel tubes. Initially, Sif began by producing pressure vessels for the process industry, but since the 1980s the company has been active as a supplier for the offshore industry.

Diederik de Bruin, project manager at Sif: “For years now, we have been the market leader in the production of jackets and the foundation piles for offshore structures. In the 1990s, we were one of the first players in the market to start with foundation piles for offshore wind turbines. Since then, we have manufactured more than 1200 monopiles for offshore wind turbines. By setting up business in Rotterdam, we can serve the offshore wind market even better.”

Verbrugge is also a well-known player in the sector, with terminals in Vlissingen, Terneuzen and Zeebrugge. In 2009, the stevedore became involved, from the terminal in Vlissingen, with the logistics of what was at the time the largest offshore wind farm, Greater Gabbard, off the coast of Felixstowe, the first in a series of projects. “Together with Sif, we are now taking a further step towards professionalising and optimising site logistics for the offshore wind sector,” says commercial director Rob Quartel, “This partnership forms an excellent basis for making investments which lead to further cost optimisation, which is one of the main drivers for the further development of this industry.

“The ideal location, the collaboration with Sif Group, the available infrastructure and equipment in Rotterdam and Verbrugge’s track record in this industry ensure that Rotterdam and the Offshore Terminal Rotterdam will be playing at Champions League level in offshore wind when the new terminal opens in 2016,” says Rob Quartel, commercial director at Verbrugge International

Growth market

Up to now, Rotterdam has not been known as a port for the offshore wind industry, but with the completion of Maasvlakte 2, the 1,000-hectare addition to the port of Rotterdam, new sites on deep water have become available in Rotterdam. The Port of Rotterdam Authority’s original plans did not make provisions for the offshore industry too, but the port sees the construction of offshore wind farms as a growth market and, in time, their dismantling too.

Business manager Joost Eenhuizen says: “This sector is perfectly in keeping with the objectives of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. The market for wind power is one with a high level of Dutch know-how in monopile production, installation and maintenance. Wind power also plays an important role in the transition to sustainable power, something the port of Rotterdam strongly supports. And the sector leads to both growth in employment and the further development of knowledge.”

Combination of production and logistics

Therefore, last summer agreement was reached on construction of the terminal on a site covering approximately 42 hectares on Maasvlakte 2 in the port of Rotterdam. The Port Authority is building a 400 metre deep sea quay for Sif Group and Verbrugge International, with a depth of -16.5 m New Amsterdam Water Level (NAP) and the option to deepen it further to approx. -19 m NAP. The two companies are setting up a joint venture to bring together the logistics and production of the offshore foundations.

Wind farms in the North Sea

On Maasvlakte 2, Sif and Verbrugge will create a production site where monopiles can be manufactured with a diameter of 11 metres and more. This is in response to the trend towards foundation piles with increasingly large diameters for the offshore wind sector.

“In Europe, sustainably generated power needs to increase its share substantially during the coming years,” says the project manager at Sif. “In Northern Europe, wind power has been designated as the main source of this power. The North Sea offers very favourable conditions for offshore wind, with a relatively large number of windy days well distributed throughout the year, good conditions for laying foundations and consumers for the generated wind power close by. We can therefore expect to see sharp growth in the wind industry in the North Sea during the coming years.”

Offshore Terminal Rotterdam

He believes that the port of Rotterdam is a logical choice for this. De Bruin: “The terminal is directly on the North Sea, both literally and figuratively. With a guaranteed water depth of 14.5 m at all times, the largest crane vessels currently operating can moor here. In addition, the Port of Rotterdam Authority will be improving the ground for the quay so that all current jack-ups will be able to stand 8 metres from the quay. With the increased weight of the piles for the offshore wind industry, this is a great competitive advantage for the port of Rotterdam. In this way, we can serve our clients optimally whilst optimising the logistic costs.”

“Thanks to this partnership, we can introduce innovative concepts in Rotterdam which focus specifically on the handling of components for foundations - monopiles, transition pieces and jackets - as well as Wind Turbine Generators,” adds Verbrugge’s commercial director. “This partnership will not only lead to cost leadership, but also introduce a new standard when it comes to quality and service.”

Furthermore, other players in the offshore wind and oil & gas industry will also be able to use the terminal. Quartel: “Due to the unique location of the terminal and the accompanying facilities, we can offer a very broad service.”

Completion

In the summer of 2015, the Port Authority began construction work on the quay and the first pile for the production facility was driven at the end of October. In the second half of 2016, Sif expects to start producing piles, transition pieces and other products and, if all goes according to plan, the Offshore Terminal Rotterdam will be fully operational at the end of 2017.

Wind energy in the port

In the port of Rotterdam, numerous types of energy converge: coal and natural gas, but also biomass, heat, steam, solar and wind. The supply, production and distribution of energy is extensive. In this context, sustainable energy generation is an important development. At the moment, total capacity of wind turbines installed in the Rotterdam port area is 200 megawatts (MW). This represents about 10 per cent of the total wind energy capacity in the Netherlands. The Dutch government has decreed that 14 per cent of Dutch energy production must be generated from renewable sources by 2020 and 16 per cent by 2023. The Port of Rotterdam Authority supports this through the ‘Agreement on Realisation of Wind Energy in the port of Rotterdam (2009)’. In accordance with this agreement, at least 150 MW of new wind energy will be generated in public port areas by 2020. In its Port Vision, the Port of Rotterdam Authority and various partners have agreed to achieve a total installed capacity of 300 MW by 2020.

In order to realize these ambitions, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, together with partners and power companies, is making plans on how to deploy locations for wind energy. Furthermore, obsolete wind turbines in the port area will be replaced by turbines with more capacity. The seawall of Maasvlakte 2 is one of the most important new locations for wind energy. In addition, the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management is investigating the possibilities for placing wind turbines on the soft seawall (beach) of Maasvlakte 2.

This article was published in PES Wind Magazine – issue 4, 2015

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