With 60+ years as an industry leader in providing classification and technical services to drillers and producers in offshore oil fields around the world, it is only natural that American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) is applying that expertise to the burgeoning offshore wind sector. With the market continuing to expand in European waters (where the early 1990s saw the first commercial deployment of turbines offshore), and set for dramatic growth in US and Asian waters, ABS has made a commitment to bring its extensive expertise to the sector.
Matt Tremblay, Vice President of Global Offshore Markets at ABS, explained that the likely evolution of offshore wind will parallel the course taken by offshore oil drillers beginning with turbines fixed to the sea-bottom (analogous to jack-up rigs) and then moving out into deeper waters where floating equipment will be required.
Tremblay, a 25-year ABS veteran, said that “…in many cases floating offshore wind is the only option for offshore wind. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when.”
He pointed to ABS’s leadership role in classing floating structures in the wind sector- which dates back to 2011. ABS has classed more than 80 MW of floating offshore wind. In 2021, ABS classed turbines for the WindFloat Atlantic project located off Portugal, which is continental Europe’s first larger scale floating wind farm.
Tremblay emphasized how ABS’s lengthy experience over 60 years and extensive relationships with equipment suppliers and project developers would play an important role going forward, as the offshore infrastructure develops in the coming years. Though floating offshore wind is presently at early stages, he made the point that the industry will likely centralize around certain technologies, with ABS uniquely positioned to provide guidance to project participants and other stakeholders. Looking ahead, he noted that ABS is thinking about broader concepts of constructability, scalability and transportability of floating assets in the general sense and is already developing concepts for the implementation of offshore energy hubs, and “green hydrogen” production utilizing energy generated from offshore turbines.
Implementation of offshore wind projects takes many years; regulatory approvals and design processes are complicated with many players involved, often challenged with the implementation of new technologies. Tremblay stressed ABS’s role as a facilitator, saying that ABS has been able to “…be a bridge in the community between the designers, developers, and the relationship with the construction community, as well.”
He also stressed relationships with shipyards and manufacturers, adding that: “We are helping the community tie all those pieces together.” When asked about the medium and long-term picture for floating offshore wind, Tremblay identified two major determinants: which geographies will get developed first, and how will technologies centralize, adding that ABS is uniquely positioned to help with that part, citing its numerous relationships with designers and yards.
Tremblay and ABS are also looking outside of the traditional maritime lanes. In peering farther out into the future, he said that: “…there are a lot of opportunities for the offshore wind market to collaborate with the larger offshore industry. We are looking forward to being a part of that.”