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Marine & Offshore

Wind of Change

When it was announced that Barrow Docks in Cumbria were to be used as a base for the installation of the new Ormonde offshore windfarm, few people could have realised just how big the project would become, and just how many companies would be involved. Pirtek Cumbria took on what was to be a mammoth project, when it became involved at the conception of the windfarm in 2009. It was then that longstanding customer - construction company The Neil Martin Group (NMG) – was commissioned to survey, refurbish, strengthen and surface the main dock area ready for the unloading of the windfarm equipment. "We serviced the Neil Martin Group equipment during the demolition stages and the installation of 2,300 m3 of concrete and tiebars to strengthen the dock sides," says Pirtek Cumbria sales manager Ivan Booth. "In addition, a quarter of a million tonnes of hardcore was poured into the 11 hectare site before it was topped off with scalpings. The site was completed with new fencing and lighting. So there was a lot of hydraulic maintenance and repair work during this period." This was work carried out to a tight schedule, and required the continuous support of Pirtek Cumbria throughout, as NMG managing director Neil Martin points out. "Pirtek Cumbria provided hydraulic services for everything. They were excellent throughout the project,” he says. “When we needed a repair, they were there.”

Dedicated Vehicle

To ensure the fastest-possible response times on this mammoth project, Pirtek Cumbria dedicated a service van to the Barrow area, with MSST Gary Winder. The MSST provided an outstanding service and was dedicated to deliver whatever we needed. "That means I am in constant demand and makes for some very long days,” Winder explains. “Everything here revolves around the tides, and repairs have to be carried out then and there. It’s not unusual for me to still be on site at 8.30pm." Ivan Booth reports that his team works very closely with Middlesbrough-based GAC Shipping Agency, the company handling all the needs of the Dutch Dong Energy company that is installing the windfarm. "GAC is the single contact point for virtually every company operating out of the docks. It just makes it simpler for suppliers and customers. They can contact GAC while they’re offshore, and the parts or repair service are waiting when they return to Barrow,” says John Walmsley, GAC’s agency manager. “But suppliers have to be on the ball and operate 24/7. Offshore services don't work on a 9 to 5 basis and suppliers have to work to suit them. Pirtek Cumbria has demonstrated that ability and I'm pleased to say I can phone them up with a problem and they supply the solution, whether it's a part, or an engineer. I have thrown a huge array of parts needs at them and they have come up trumps.” The installation of the first 51 turbines brought some huge ships in to the refurbished docks. Amongst these are the unpowered Goliath barges that were pushed into place by two tugs. These are used to install the 600 tonne, 24 metre high mono-piles into the seabed and to then place the 450 tonne transition piece over the pile. The 100 tonne shaft of the wind turbine sits on the transition piece, and is topped off with the 150 tonne turbine. At present Geo Sea, a Belgian company runs the piling ships and uses huge 1,300 tonne Liebherr crawler cranes from Inverness-based Weldex to load two piles at a time onto the barges. Needless to say, both are Pirtek customers. Weldex tend to use conventional hydraulic services but the piles require a rather unusual Pirtek service. The mono-piles are capped so that they float for installation. They are flooded by releasing water in through a water-tight end cap. Even though the company that manufactures the piles had their own hydraulic engineer, Pirtek Cumbria was called in to help equip the 6.3 metre end caps. To date Pirtek has helped with eight end caps, each with 22 hydraulic hoses that power the actuators, value and ram seals.

Hostile Environment

As the turbines come on to line, they are connected to 44 km of electric cables that brings the electricity on shore. Visser & Smit Marine Consulting run the cable mother ships, which plough the trenches in which the cables lie before being overlaid with armour stone for protection. At £100,000 a day to run, these ships must work 24/7 and anything that goes wrong at sea must be replaced in the few hours at high tide when the ships return to port. “The ships work in an incredibly hostile environment and often come in needing a lot of short notice hydraulic work. There are eight winches on each ship that hold the ship in position and which are put under a lot of strain,” Barry Buckle continues. “Being marine equipment, there are lots of odd fittings, large hoses and strange-sized parts. But to date we have found every part and hose, and got the boats back on line in time.' With such massive and demanding companies on site, it is reassuring to find that Pirtek Cumbria continues to provide a similarly high level of responsiveness to some smaller, more specialised companies. Rovtech Systems builds remote-controlled robots to clean the radioactive sludge from the ponds at nearby Windscale. “That sounds pretty unusual but the robots are actually based on mini excavator bodies, so all the hydraulic hoses and fittings are fairly standard. But it's always nice to know we've had a hand in cleaning up the nuclear industry while we’re helping to build the wind power sector, Ivan Booth concludes. "As the docks have developed so has the Pirtek Cumbria service. I am proud to say we have adapted to suit our client's needs and that we have a lot of happy though diverse customers as a result. "

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