Ecosse Subsea land major ABB seabed clearing contract

Ecosse Subsea Systems (ESS) has signed a Letter of Intent with ABB for a seabed clearance and trenching project in the north of Scotland.

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The Aberdeenshire-based subsea technology firm will prepare the route for the 100-mile interconnector cable at the centre of SHE Transmission’s £1.2 billion Caithness-Moray transmission link project. Depending on the final scope and options selected, the contract will be ESS’s largest ever contract award.

When completed, the Caithness-Moray cable will be capable of carrying 1.2GW of renewable energy generated in the North of Scotland to the main UK electricity transmission network.

ESS will perform boulder clearance operations and pre-lay trenching prior to the laying of the transmission cable which will run from Spittal in Caithness to Blackhillock in Moray. Once the transmission cable is installed by main contractors ABB, ESS will complete back-fill operations to safely conceal and protect the cable.

Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, praised the appointment of ESS as an example of Scottish technologies being utilised in contracts of national importance.

Mr Ewing said: “I am delighted to hear that Ecosse Subsea Systems has secured this agreement, which will be of significant value to the Banchory-based firm. ESS is a significant local employer, with around 80 staff, and its involvement in the Caithness-Moray project will secure an additional 20 jobs over the next two years. It is an excellent example of a Scottish company using the skills, technology and experience from delivering North Sea oil and gas projects to secure new opportunities.

“As well as having significant local and national supply chain benefits, the Caithness-Moray project will enable 1.2 GW of new renewable generation to connect to the high-voltage network providing enough electricity to power the equivalent of over 500,000 homes and also making a substantial contribution toward our renewable electricity target. Reinforcement of the grid in this resource-rich part of the country will also help to pave the way for future island connections to Orkney and Shetland.”

ESS has already started pre-engineering work on the project and has a scheduled start date of December 2016 for what is estimated to be a six to seven month campaign. The company is a leading exponent of pre-cut trenching which is widely recognised as more environmentally friendly than traditional cable-laying methods and also offers greater protection for the cable and reduces risk of damage during the lay operations.

Keith McDermott, ESS commercial director, said he was delighted that ESS, a Scottish based company, would play such a prominent role in using Scottish developed technology on a project of national importance.

He said: “Our commitment and significant investment in pre-lay trenching techniques is now resulting in the award of multi-million pound contracts like the Caithness Moray transmission cable project.”

SSE Director of Transmission, Dave Gardner, said: “We are delighted that a local company and local workers are to benefit from such a significant piece of work on the Caithness-Moray project. We are also very proud that Caithness-Moray is a Living Wage project, meaning that everyone who works on it will be paid at least the Living Wage. Through these initiatives we are determined to ensure that local people and the local economy get as much economic benefit from the project as possible.”

ESS managing director, Mike Wilson, added: “Cable owners and manufacturers have recognised that our method reduces the risk of damage to the cable and our use of smaller charter vessels brings huge cost savings. We also reduce the possibility of schedule disruption because, working ahead of the laying phase, we can identify and help solve any potential engineering problems with the proposed seabed route before it reaches a critical point.”

ESS’s deepwater SCAR plough was originally designed for use in the oil and gas sector and continues to work on hydrocarbon projects but the company has
successfully adapted the technology to suit the requirements of the renewables sector.

Following a number of successful windfarm seabed clearance and trenching projects in the Humber Estuary and the Baltic Sea, ESS has established the SCAR’s credentials and a fast, safe and cost-effective alternative to other seabed clearance and cable installation options.

Mr Wilson added: “The alternative method is to lay the cable first and then post-lay cut the trench but that is like laying a power cable alongside a road and then using a JCB to dig around and underneath the cable. Using our SCAR plough avoids compromising the integrity of the cable, significantly reduces the risk of damage, and offers operators greater peace of mind.”

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