Floating Wind and Ground Risk - New Thinking Required? - Part 2/3

A personal view from Mark Finch, Managing Director

A good site survey allows you to de-risk and optimise your design – make it cost effective. We all like to sleep at night. But this obviously begs the question, what is a good survey?  

The answer is not simple. The answer is nuanced, complex and affected by numerous other issues, including lots of non-technical stuff like budgets, availability of contractors, project timelines, definition (or lack of it) of a Base Case solution, environmental constraints, the Client's appetite for risk amongst many others. But there is an answer, and with enough time and focus, it can be defined and incorporated in to a project programme. Prevention is better than cure. Ground risk gets 'locked in' if data is available too late to reduce design conservatism. Early intervention always has the potential for a bigger positive impact than later. 

Of course, all the survey in the world means nothing if the information isn't interpreted and applied correctly. Knowing where rock head is (just one example which may well be critical for an offshore site) can be the difference between success and failure for a project. 

In the past decade, I've had the privilege of being retained as an Expert Witness on numerous high value construction disputes. Necessarily, I am engaged when there have been geotechnical issues and, by definition, when we get to this point, it's fair to say ground risk may not have been managed as well as it could have been. Being an Expert Witness is fascinating and I relish the challenges it brings and the theatre of cross examination by highly skilled legal counsel. But, from a Geotechnical Engineers point of view, we shouldn't be in a dispute in the first place. As an industry we can do better. 

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And now, as an industry, we are moving into the sunlit uplands of floating offshore wind – and a new perspective on the old site survey problem is emerging. How can you do an effective survey – that exists purely to reduce design, fabrication and construction, operational and decommissioning risks – on what's likely to be a very big area of seabed, with complex geological conditions, when you probably don't know where your anchors will be, and you probably don't know the type of anchor or even the type of mooring system to be deployed.