Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A project involving researchers at University of Limerick is seeking to develop a new solution for subsea anchoring that could reduce the cost of offshore wind.

The consortium heading up the Subsea Micropiles Project – or ‘SEMPRE’ – has this week announced formal commencement of the collaboration.

The project group includes Irish companies Mincon Group plc and Subsea Micropiles Ltd, along with research centres at UL and UCD and it has an overall budget of €5m.

SEMPRE, which was awarded grant funding of €2.82 million over three years from the Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), will develop a solution that aims to transform the industry for offshore piling and anchoring.

It will include extensive research and testing to address key technical challenges in the development of a new robotic seabed drilling system for the installation, testing, and certification of marine anchors using micropile technology.

Offshore wind is positioned to become a major sustainable energy in the Europe and globally, but its potential will be severely limited without cheaper and less environmentally disruptive approaches to anchors and foundations which can support increasingly larger turbines in more challenging seabed conditions.

Sempre will develop micro piles for subsea anchoring use which will lower the cost, have huge environmental benefits and improve seabed access.

“We are pleased to be working with such a distinguished team of engineering professionals as we advance commercial solutions for micropiled anchors and foundations,” said Derek Robertson, CEO, Subsea Micropiles Ltd.

“The grant-funded project provides a welcome focus for the industry to address the pressing need for more cost effective and environmentally sympathetic solutions to support the growth of offshore wind and other applications,” he added.

Joe Purcell, CEO, Mincon Group plc, said: “At Mincon, we already focus on making the world’s most energy-efficient drilling solutions, lowering both fuel usage and the impact on the environment.

“We are delighted to lead this effort with Subsea Micropiles and two prestigious Irish universities, with an aim to use our extensive engineering expertise to develop an innovative solution that will disrupt the renewable energy industry and benefit the wider offshore sector.”

Micropiling has grown to become a dominant foundation and anchoring solution for onshore infrastructure since the 1950s, as a proven low-noise and low-impact approach to soil interventions. Recent advances in underwater robotics now opens the door for low-cost micropiling to be used in the vast market for offshore piling and anchoring.

“It is really interesting to see how our advanced robotics solutions can lead to a novel and less intrusive offshore piling process, especially in the context of the rise of offshore renewable energy,” explained UL lead Dr Edin Omerdic, a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at UL and a researcher at the Centre for Robotics & Intelligent Systems.

Vikram Pakrashi, Director of UCD Centre for Mechanics and Associate Professor, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, said: “This is an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate how disciplinary barriers are becoming less relevant for some of the grand challenges of our times. Our work in this project will bring fundamental mechanics, sensors and analytics together to create a much-needed evidence base on this topic.”