HomeUnchartered territories: protecting assets post-warranty

With the UK offshore wind industry maturing, the challenges presented by wind farm operation & maintenance (O&M) are rising. The UK offshore wind O&M services market is expected to grow to almost £2 billion by 2025 and by 2020 there will be up to 4,000 wind turbines and 50 offshore substations requiring O&M. This brings technical, commercial and safety risks, particularly as wind farms come out of standard warranty periods.

The industry’s priorities for offshore wind O&M development should include improvements in asset management strategies through addressing these barriers:

In the contract

The range of contractual and technical arrangements for wind sector O&M is wide-ranging and complex. A key challenge for many owners, looking to operate and maintain plant post warranty, is to know what to look for in a construction-biased contract. The focus should be on solutions that are safe but also cost effective. Unfortunately, the complexity of contractual arrangements can work against this, creating potential barriers to plant integrity, safety and reliability.

When a site is under construction, little focus can be given to the scope of work for contracted parties during O&M. So, the primary loser here is often the asset owner. ARMSA Consulting (“ARMSA”), a multidisciplinary professional services firm, has experienced several on and off-shore cases where the O&M service provider has taken a limited view of its role so on the health and safety side, there can be significant ramifications.

Structured planning

When ARMSA audit O&M performance the first inquiry is generally for sight of the inventory of critical plant items. This enables plant identification, assessment of risks and development of a maintenance strategy. While assets are still under warranty, project owners may not have access to all plant related information, such as design standards. “The OEM tends to hold on to design of equipment and information relating to that – it’s their intellectual property – and this has not been resolved in the market at the moment,” says Rakesh Maharaj, ARMSA’s Director. “But, at the very least, they should provide sufficient information on plant hazards and associated safety related systems and safety critical devices because those hazards need to be managed.”

Building competence

One critical gap is that non-OEM service providers sometimes lack technical competence, so they fail to ask the right questions. This can lead to the quality of data that is captured being insufficient to develop and improve ongoing operations and maintenance strategies.

Credible principles

If asset owners fail to take basic steps early on, it can lead to safety and reliability problems in the future as well as spiralling costs. To meet operational challenges all parties involved need to look more closely at how they plan and manage O&M responsibilities. In transitioning into post-warranty period, wind farm owners need to be confident their O&M provider can deliver robust asset management strategies. As in the absence of a more structured approach the safety and reliability of the assets could be at risk.

To help industry address these and wider challenges, ARMSA invested in the development of an Asset Management Certificate programme designed specifically for Wind Energy sector. The programme enables delegates to take specific steps for improving their asset management strategies. For more information visit: 

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