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Oil rig makers vie for wind farm contracts

Offshore oil rig manufacturers are courting for contracts from the wind energy industry, challenging the idea that the shift to green power would make them redundant.

Offshore oil rig manufacturers are courting for contracts from the wind energy industry, challenging the idea that the shift to green power would make them redundant. Drydocks World, a rig maker based in Dubai, expects barges used to install massive offshore wind turbines will make up 30 per cent of its rig business over the next three years, thanks to rising investment in wind power by coastal European countries to reduce their dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Geoff Taylor, the executive chairman of Drydocks World, which owns and operates ship repair and rig manufacturing facilities in Dubai, Singapore and Indonesia, said: "The clean technology is a sector of great interest to us. We've got quite a lot of work in wind farms. The market could be very, very big." The company recently delivered two barges for wind projects and is building another two, at a cost of between $25 million (Dh91.75m) and $150m each. The barges, known as "jack-ups", are mobile platforms that are able to secure themselves in shallow seas by lowering and securing legs onto the sea floor. They are fitted with cranes and used to install equipment on offshore wind farms, which can number more than 150 windmills a project.

Both customers are in Europe, highlighting the region's lead in harnessing wind energy to satisfy its power needs. Drydocks World's first contract in the wind sector involved two jack-up barges for Self Elevating Platforms of the Netherlands, which were used to complete the first German offshore wind farm, Alpha Ventus. The barges, named "Sea Worker" and "Seafox 7" and capable of handling 300 tonnes of equipment, were built at Drydocks World's Nanindah shipyard in Batam, Indonesia. The Dubai firm is also in the process of building two larger rigs for Master Marine of Norway.

Gulf Piping Company, which builds rigs at its yard in Musaffah, also sees supplying the wind energy sector as a potentially important part of its business that could complement oil and gas. "It is a growing market, no doubt," said Nabil Abla, the company's business development manager. "We would definitely like to get some of this work." Investments in the green power sector have recovered considerably in the second quarter of this year, after declining sharply in January to March, although funding has still not returned to levels witnessed before last year's financial crisis, according to recent research.

New Energy Finance, a clearing house for data on renewables, estimates that 'green energy" investment worldwide rose 82 per cent in the three months from April to June, to $24.3 billion, compared to $13.3bn in the first quarter. However, the second quarter's figure was still down 32 per cent on the same three months a year ago. European wind energy is attracting some of the largest investments in the sector. Two of the top three fund-raising deals in the second quarter involved European wind energy firms, with Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark raising $1.05bn and Gamesa of Spain receiving $556m from investors.

Worldwide, there were 40 investments in wind energy firms in the second quarter, worth $9.7bn, making it the top "green energy" category, above solar power, biomass and biofuels and geothermal energy, New Energy Finance says. The largest proposed offshore wind farm is the London Array, with a planned 341 wind turbines, which is 20 per cent owned by Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government's alternative energy firm.

igale@thenational.ae

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