Towards sustainable offshore energy production: An interview with Michael Hook  

We sat down with Michael Hook, Strainstall’s Renewables Business Development Manager, to discuss asset monitoring alongside the offshore energy production industry’s future. Since joining the company 18 months ago, Michael is keen to build on the load measurement specialist’s early success in renewables and continue to support the sector’s sustainable development.  

What is the current climate situation? 

“Faced with the present state of climate emergency, we’ve seen an international aim emerge to achieve net-zero in carbon emissions. To realise this challenging objective, the rapid and extensive development of reliable, safe and sustainable energy production is more crucial than ever. Renewable energy experts have claimed that numerous energy sources are the most effective, with wind, solar, tidal and wave all having their own committed supporters and parts to play in the global energy mix.  

However, intelligently combining all these methods is the only way to achieve net-zero anytime soon. For instance, the UK is blessed with favourable bathymetry and reliable winds that enable the mass installation of fixed offshore wind arrays, yet this is approach is less suitable for other locations. In considering the diverse geography of countries around the world, realising net-zero will require a sustainable mix of energy sources that accommodate a variety of environmental conditions.” 

How can Strainstall help?  

“We’re keen to support the global fight against climate emergency by ensuring the safe and efficient operation of floating offshore renewable energy assets. Widely recognised as a leading developer of load monitoring solutions for the hydrocarbon sector, we’re uniquely positioned to leverage our offshore engineering capabilities for the asset monitoring needs of floating offshore wind (FLOW), tidal and wave. To this end, we partnered with MacGregor Pusnes in 2016 to supply Hywind – the world’s first floating offshore wind farm – with our patented Strain Ring load measurement system. Additionally, we collaborated with First Subsea to support the landmark Kincardine FLOW project in 2019, as well as other technology developers that are entering this exciting arena.  

While we’re best known for load monitoring hardware, our offering extends to full Integrated Marine Monitoring Systems (IMMS) which can combine multiple datasets into one easily accessible interface. This data includes structural integrity monitoring, met-ocean data, meteorology, absolute and relative position and ballast conditions to name a few. Data capture of this scope delivers a detailed overview of events, maximising the safety and cost-efficiency of offshore assets throughout their lifecycles.” 

What can renewables learn from oil and gas?  

“The hydrocarbon sector has successfully addressed many of the challenges associated with fixing floating assets to the seabed. For instance, our team has long since been able to develop real-time load measurement solutions for FPSOs and semi-submersible platforms to monitor the lifelong integrity of their mooring lines. I suspect that this is why we’ve secured pioneering FLOW projects over the last 24 months, with project developers across the wind, tidal and wave sectors increasingly leaning towards technology and expertise from the oil and gas industry to secure their assets from pre-commercial development to full-scale deployment.” 

How can digitalisation transform the industry? 

“Turning towards the future, digitalisation will be key to unlocking the potential of renewables. More specifically, harnessing digital technologies to minimise human presence on all offshore assets will be critical to this aim. I discussed this at length during the Offshore and Floating Wind Europe 2019 event and, with recent developments in IoT (Internet of Things) solutions and digital twinning, it’s already possible with current levels of technology. By reducing costs, the digitalisation of renewable operations will help to reach LCoE (Levelised Cost of Energy) targets, attracting investors and enabling the industry’s continued upscaling.” 

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