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Brazilian lifting engineering and offshore wind energy

*Article published in CRANE BRASIL Ed. 83

The growing worldwide search for clean and renewable energy has challenged engineering for effective, scalable, competitive solutions that meet the demand for replacing fossil energy.

Among them, the one that currently stands out the most is wind energy, which has, among others, the following advantages over fossil energy:

  1. Energy production is directly non-emitting pollutants;
  2. Having the wind as a source, it is free from price variations of raw materials such as oil, coal, gas, biomass, among others, whose prices can vary greatly depending on supply, demand, geopolitical events, etc.;
  3. This raw material independence makes costs and usage much more predictable. For example, it is much easier to answer: “how much will a wind generator cost in 2030” than to answer “how much will a barrel of oil cost in 2030”;
  4. Energy production is local, allowing decentralization and reduction of transmission costs;
  5. It is a sustainable and, in practice, inexhaustible source.
Fonte: Load-out da subestação/Aibel

Among the challenges of wind energy are:

  1. Price competitiveness in relation to existing energy sources;
  2. Scarcity of areas with potential for wind energy production;
  3. Noise, visual pollution and impact on the region’s fauna.

With the growth of onshore projects and the need for more efficient energy production, in response to the challenges of onshore wind farms, wind farms are being built at sea, away from the coast, or offshore, with more powerful and efficient generators, greater availability of areas, without impact of noise and visual pollution.

However, this new positioning brings other challenges, to be overcome by Brazilian construction and lifting engineering. The following table provides a summary of activities and demands.

StructureDescriptionDemandsExperience and availability of Brazilian Engineering
Gravity foundation, for shallow waterUsually reinforced concrete
or prestressed, resting on the treated seabed
Dry docks, floating docks or cofferdams
Small and medium-sized land cranes
medium-sized goats
service ferries
large tugs
Excellent control of concrete
Few offshore installation works in Brazil.
Example: platforms PUB-1 to PUB-3 (1975 to 1982) Active tug fleet (AHTS)
Low availability of goats
Monopile or tube, for shallow waters up to 40 metersCorresponds to about 80% installed in the world, consisting of a large diameter welded steel tube, driven into the seabedMetalworking construction
Port infrastructure with large cranes
Large service ferries
medium-sized tugboats
Medium to large offshore cranes
Excellent domain of metal mechanics
Many offshore installation works
Tug fleet (AHTS) active
Low availability of goats
Low availability of large offshore cranes
Jackets with “topside”Large metallic structures to support electrical substationsShipbuilding
Small to large land cranes
port infrastructure
load out equipment
Large service ferries
Medium to large tugs
Large offshore cranes
Excellent mastery of shipbuilding
Many offshore installation works
Tug fleet (AHTS) active
Low availability of large offshore cranes
Submarine control, monitoring and distribution networkSubsea cables and equipmentPort infrastructure
Ferries or cable-laying ships
Medium-sized service ferries for shallow waters
medium-sized tugboats
Medium-sized offshore cranes
Low availability of ferries or cable-laying ships
Medium-sized service ferries
A lot of experience in laying pipelines and Low availability of barges or cable laying ships
Medium-sized service ferries
Extensive experience in laying subsea pipelines and equipment

One of the expected bottlenecks is the low availability of offshore construction and lifting vessels, including vessels specialized in lifting offshore wind farms (see Crane Brasil 82). Currently, with strong world construction demand, new vessels of this type will be needed.

In addition to all the infrastructure and equipment, there will be a strong demand for specialized labor in the following areas:

– Offshore lifting engineering;

– Engineering of offshore structures;

– Geotechnics of offshore foundations;

– Naval engineering;

– Maritime transport of large loads;

– Electrical and instrumentation engineering;

– Subsea engineering.

As in Brazil there is no experience with offshore wind, these professionals are mainly working in the oil and gas area, which should generate some competition for this workforce or the use of foreign engineering at the beginning of projects.

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