Aibel Thailand has completed some massive projects. But the biggest move of all may be its transition from oil and gas activities to ones in the renewable sector.
Aibel Thailand’s growing capabilities have led to it taking on, and completing, some massive projects. The Johan Sverdrup Process Platform II set a record for the heaviest single lift completed by Aibel. When Aibel began exploring renewable energy opportunities in 2010, it wasn’t seen as a replacement for the oil and gas business but as a supplement to it. The first important milestone of the transition was winning a contract from Equinor to work on the world’s first floating offshore wind farm, the Hywind Scotland project.
Eventually, the new focus extended to its Laem Chabang yard in Thailand. In 2019, Aibel was awarded a contract by the SSE Renewables and Equinor consortium to work on Dogger Bank Wind Farm, the world’s largest offshore wind farm. It was announced that construction of the topsides would happen in the Kingdom. “The transition to renewables initially began a couple of years ago when Aibel started with the design concept of the current Dogger Bank High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) platform that is being assembled here in Thailand,” Mr Nigel Whiting, Aibel Thailand Managing Director, says. “Many of the skills are transferable from the oil and gas industry to renewables, with more focus on structural and EIT work than piping though.” That was important as it allowed the firm to avoid obstacles such as retraining or investment in new machinery. It could instead focus on getting to work. “We have worked closely with our clients and partners during the development of the design of the HVDC platform and ensured we incorporate all the input as requested for the smooth operation of it once installed,” Mr Whiting reports.
Aibel Thailand is now looking at scaling up its capacity. More renewable sector projects are likely in the coming years which means it is important for the company to be ready. That being said, work in the oil and gas sector isn’t going anywhere. “We are looking to increase our capacity here in Thailand to ensure that we have sufficient for all the upcoming projects. We see that our main growth over the coming years will be in the renewables sector as many of the oil and gas majors are looking to reduce their carbon footprint, along with Aibel also,” Mr Whiting notes. “We will still have also work on oil and gas projects, supporting our clients as required.”
While growth is planned behind the scenes, work continues on fabricating and assembling the HVDC topside for the Dogger Bank Wind Farm project. Once finished, the gigantic structures will be transported to Aibel’s yard in Haugesund, Norway before eventually being put into operation. “There will be three in total (topsides) each weighing approximately 7600 metric tonnes, which once completed will be shipped to Haugesund for outfitting with Hitachi Energy’s latest generation HVDC converter technology,” Mr Whiting explains. “Once they are installed and operational in the North Sea, the three Dogger Bank projects will form the world’s largest offshore wind farm, supplying power to 4.5 million homes in the UK.”
As Aibel Thailand was beginning work on the Dogger Bank Wind Farm project, it was simultaneously putting the finishing touches on another massive task, the Johan Sverdrup Process Platform II (JSP2). This was a challenge, but one the company was prepared for. “(The challenge) is ensuring that engineering deliverables and materials arrive in the correct execution sequence to ensure the schedule can be achieved,” Mr Whiting points out. “We have many tools within Aibel to ensure that everything is tracked and managed on each project.”
It sounds easy enough, however, JSP2 was no ordinary project. It set several Aibel Thailand records before departing for the yard in Haugesund early this year. Among the notable achievements was the heaviest single lift done by the company which, according to Mr Whiting, was about 1,000 metric tonnes for a deck section. “The JSP2 main support frame (MSF) was the heaviest module we have ever completed here in Thailand, weighing in at just over 16,300 metric tonnes when it was loaded out. It was also the heaviest item to be moved by self propelled modular transporter (SPMT) and also the utilised the most SPMT axles ever for one load out,” Mr Whiting details.
Before being shipped out to the Johan Sverdrup field in January 2022, processing and converter modules will be assembled at the Haugesund yard. The project represents an enormous accomplishment for the entire Aibel organisation with Mr Whiting recalling a sense of pride when it came time to ship it to Norway in April. “Upon seeing it leave, I was extremely proud of the entire Aibel Thailand team and all the subcontractors that contributed to the successful completion of it, especially during a challenging period with COVID-19 restrictions,” Mr Whiting says. “It is a testament to the entire workforce that we can work together to continue delivery these large complex platforms.”
Total manpower for the JSP2 project peaked at around 3,000 people with Mr Whiting adding that Aibel Thailand recorded the best safety performance for any of its projects. These efforts were even recognised at the CEO HSSE Awards. “The Aibel Thailand site team was just awarded the CEO HSSE Award for 2020 due to excellent safety performance on the JSP2 MSF project, which is a credit to everyone that was involved in the fabrication and assembly, including all of our subcontractors,” Mr Whiting proclaims. When the company was first awarded the contract for the JSP2 project in 2018, the firm knew it was a large task. For Aibel Thailand, being able to complete the platform showed people what their yard was capable of. “I think the size of the JSP2 MSF surprised many people, which demonstrated the capabilities of Aibel Thailand to delivery such a huge platform,” Mr Whiting states.
Aibel’s operations in Thailand have grown considerably since launching in 2000. Initially known as ABB Offshore Systems, the company started with four employees. That total reached 30 two years later as they eventually outgrew their first home at the Port of Sattahip. “Due to limitations on the jetty for loading out modules there, Aibel moved to the Port of Map Ta Phut in 2001 and remained there until 2005. From 2005 onwards, we have been based in the Port of Laem Chabang with an area of 130,000 square metres and increased load out capacity,” Mr Whiting notes. “In 2019, we expand our yard area with an additional 120,000 square metres.”
The increase in size has allowed Aibel Thailand to tackle bigger projects, such as JSP2 and the Dogger Bank Wind Farm topsides. It also owns a stake in a fabrication shop, Deeline, which specialises in steel structure and piping. “We also have 40 percent ownership of Decline in Ban Chang who do all our fabrication work with an area of 170,000 square metres. This has seen our capacity increase from 5,000 tons per year in 2001 to 25,000 tons per year currently,” Mr Whiting says. “We also have an engineering office in Ban Chang with space for up to 155 personnel.”
Thailand operations are connected to the yard in Norway and an engineering office in Singapore. This synergy is important for the company when working on substantial projects. “All three locations work together to ensure the successful completion of our projects. This enables Aibel to fabricate and assemble extremely large topside modules at the same time, ensuring we maintain our high standards of quality and safety,” Mr Whiting explains. He cites JSP2 as an example of how the entire company can work as one. The MSF was built in Thailand with engineering and procurement performed in Norway. Two other modules for the platform were fabricated in Europe. All three were then shipped to the Haugesund yard where they are now being joined together.
- Aibel Thailand was launched in 2000 and moved to its current Laem Chabang yard in 2005
- Aibel began exploring renewable energy opportunities in 2010
- The Thailand arm recently started work on its first renewables project, the Dogger Bank HVDC
- In April, local work concluded on the Johan Sverdrup Process Platform II and it was shipped to Norway
- The project set several Aibel Thailand records including the heaviest single lift done by the company
- Roughly 3000 people worked on the Johan Sverdrup Process Platform II project at its peak
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