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OIL & LUBRICANTS Offshore Health & Safety WELCOME BACK!


As promised in previous issues, we are delighted to welcome back Barry Sutherland previously the Operations Director and more recently the now Managing Director (congratulations are in order!) for Peter Lonsdorfer UK to discuss the issues and challenges posed by offshore gearbox and hydraulic oil changes and in particular the Health & Safety precautions so crucial in an all too regularly tumultuous and harsh environment.


It’s enough to make your teeth curl at the thought of the potential hazards and dangers when working offshore, so it is paramount that Health & Safety is followed by the letter…literally. It doesn’t bear thinking about …’the what if’…. It’s pre-empting and making sure that the ‘what ifs’ – don’t!


TRADITIONAL GEARBOX AND HYDRAULIC OIL CHANGES In the erstwhile days Barry goes on to say the very essence and nail- biting factors involved in manually lifting 20 litre drums up and down the turbine to hand pump the oil and stack the barrels in the nacelle – (stacking being a great art too within a confined area), added to which the vessel dynamics – moving water and up to 1500 litres in total to undertake an oil change!


Too many imponderables in the early days and too many near misses – where drums have dropped into the sea – gaining momentum/velocity from that 130 metres drop – a heart- stopping moment and only by luck not having hit anyone below or fallen through the wheelhouse or onto the deck and explode – high risks to people and to the environment.


THANKFULLY


However thankfully this is not the case today! The industry prides itself having developed and evolved, covering all conceivable risks which have been taken into consideration and highly detailed and perfected risk assessments and exhaustible training are in place for every procedure involved in the oil change process.


The very nature of undertaking an oil change on a turbine flags up many issues, merely opening the lid of the gearbox compromises the ‘life blood oil’ to contaminates.


PROCESS EVER-EVOLVING


Barry continues that with hoses and pump system this would normally take up to 8 hours to make a combined hydraulic and gear oil change on one large offshore turbine, this process has, since the writing of my last Peter Lonsdorfer article, been refined to less than 6 hours and further


THE PRESENT DAY


Today the technical crews run as a well- oiled machine (pardon the pun) with a crew of 2 or 3 personnel. 1 person on the pump equipment whom oversees the lifting of the hoses up to the turbine with 1 other person working on turbine making all the connections to the gear and hydraulic systems within the nacelle.


The hoses are hydraulic twin wire reinforced and have a second abrasive proof hose skin for additional protection. Barry continues that hoses are improving all the time being manufactured lighter with thinner walls for up to 800bar pressure and similarly climbing ropes have become more efficient – stronger due to laminate coating technology.


TRAIL BLAZING


Barry goes on to say, (might I add with huge dollops of modesty as I had to metaphorically prise it out of him) his company can boast 2 world firsts!


The first being the ability to offer 24 hour operations – day and night shifts and secondly at the time of our interview the company had just undertaken 3 full wind turbine combined gear and hydraulic oil changes offshore in 24 hours (clement weather assisted!). “This is no mean feat considering all the co-ordination involved – almost with military precision” Barry concludes.


IN A NUTSHELL


still (at time of publishing) has been further reduced to 3 hours and 45 minutes!!! Of course certain factors prevail – especially when having to contend with tidal flow and the restrictions of a 6 hour window between tides.


Barry states to undertake a single gear or hydraulic oil change for instance on some turbines – it takes them as little as 90 minutes from start to finish, however turbines are all different and they have a well-planned and proven system of how to best carry out the oil exchange for every turbine type in the market place today.


It is heartening to know that there is no end to innovative solutions within this sector and what makes it so fascinating is that with almost each issue of this publication there is a world first, within a particular area of wind energy, of which I feel honoured to have a snapshot into this riveting environment.


Barry Sutherland Peter Lonsdorfer


Click to view more info = Click to view video


Fliss Chaffer, Interviewer


Wind Energy Network


www.windenergynetwork.co.uk


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