In a container made by steel on the harbour in Esbjerg, a robot swims around these days. It is at the heart of the innovation project ACOMAR, where several partners collaborate to remove marine fouling from offshore structures in a more sustainable and cost-effective way.
“Marine fouling grows on everything we put into the water. This means that the surfaces on offshore structures, e.g. a wind turbine foundation, become larger, and thus the load increases. Therefore, it must be cleaned off so that the structures can last longer,” says Jesper Liniger, assistant professor at Aalborg University.
Together with a number of partners, he is testing the robot on land before it is to be further tested in a real offshore environment.
“The robot seems a bit like the robot lawnmower we know at home from the backyard. It must be able to be thrown into the water itself, and must be able to navigate to the structure, where it must automatically clean the marine fouling with high pressure cleaner,” says Jesper Liniger.
SubC Partner has high expectations for the robot, which can replace the manual cleanings previously used offshore.
“The market is large, as offshore energy is produced globally. Until now, we have worked almost exclusively in our own “backyard” in the North Sea. We now receive unsolicited inquiries from Asia, Africa, Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico, through both operators and owners of the installations. This proves the fact that it is really a very big problem,” says Eva Thrane Jensen, project engineer at SubC Partner.
In addition to SubC Partner and Aalborg University, the project also involves Siemens Gamesa, TotalEnergies, Mati2ilt and Sihm Højtryk. Energy Cluster Denmark facilitates the project.
“It is estimated that the offshore industry is spending tens of millions of DKK to remove marine fouling today. This is the cost that the ACOMAR project can significantly reduce. The project is a very good example of how collaboration on innovation makes a big difference,” says Glenda Napier, CEO of Energy Cluster Denmark.
Following the onshore testing phase, the partners in ACOMAR expect to test the robot in an authentic environment offshore in August 2022.
The partners in this project will develop and demonstrate an underwater robot, ACOMAR – Auto COm-pact MArine growth Remover, which will increase automation in connection with the removal of marine fouling on offshore structures. The goal is that the solution must ensure a cost-effective and co2-reducing process compared to today’s manual solutions. The project is supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme (EUDP) with DKK 15 million.