Powering up for Seafloor Production

Mon, 13 February 2012

ABB’s UK marine services business has won an order to supply transformers and switchgear for one of the world’s first commercial deep sea mining projects.

The order, from Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is for equipment to power three Seafloor Production Tools (SPT’s). The order comprises three 6 MVA RESIBLOC dry-type transformers, as well as 23 pillar UNIGEAR ZS1 air insulated, arc proof, medium voltage switchboards. The machines will be operated off the coast of Papua New Guinea by Nautilus Minerals Inc, which will be producing copper and gold from seafloor massive sulphide deposits hosting high grade deposits.

The order represents a new direction for ABB marine, which has built up its expertise through supplying marine power installations for the oil and gas industry and for vessel propulsion.

ABB projects manager Manuel Kooijman said, “Up to now, ocean ROVs have operated on either low voltage or medium voltage levels up to 3.3kV, but they are beginning to be used at greater depths with more power demanding equipment.  Greater depths and more power demand mean longer cables and using the aforementioned voltage supplies means increasing the cable diameter, which becomes expensive with the high price of copper. Manufacturers are thus switching to medium voltage supplies of 6kV and higher, which need a whole different skill set. Our expertise, built up over many years of supplying the marine industry with medium voltage power solutions, means we have exactly the right experience to meet SMD’s needs.”

The contract will see ABB marine manage the whole project from start to finish, including project engineering, liaising with ABB factories in Germany and Italy and writing application specific software to manage the protection and control relays.

Kooijman added, “Another major factor in winning the order was that SMD was convinced of the quality of our equipment. Our marine transformers and switchboards provide reliability for long periods at sea. We have designed the installation to cope with the ambient temperatures of 40° to 50° Celsius. Although the switch rooms are cooled, if the air conditioning fails, the equipment will still be able to cope with the heat.”

The switchboards and transformers will be delivered to SMD by the end of April 2012.


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