Electrifying the offshore market
The world is changing. We’re rapidly moving away from fossil fuels as our main source of energy. The offshore market has an import role to play in delivering alternatives but it also has to lead by example. Today, hydraulics is the technology of choice to provide enough power for the motion control that is often required in offshore installations. But the traditional hydraulic solutions are being challenged by upcoming new technologies.
Hydraulics is the traditional choice for the offshore industry because of its high power density. No other technology can generate that much force with such a compact footprint. In offshore installations and on ships, where space is limited, that is an absolute trump card.
In the past the lack of energy efficiency of hydraulics solutions was always ignored. But not anymore.
“The offshore industry is on course to a more sustainable way of working. Biodegradable oils already set the tone in new installations to avoid damage to the environment in case of spills. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Hydraulic and electric technology will be much more combined and work together in so-called hybrid solutions”, says Stijn Schacht, technical director of Vydraulics.
The Belgian company, headquartered in Dadizele offers innovative and cost-effective ready-to-use motion solutions and pump systems for the offshore industry. With experience in dozens of projects under its belt, it may call itself one of the pioneers in developing hybrid and electric alternatives for pure hydraulic movement.
Hybrid solutions that pump up energy efficiency
The first step towards a more electrical future is hybrid systems. Vydraulics already moved past the proof of concept stage and launched several servo-hybrid cylinders that are being used in the offshore market as we speak. A solution that attracted attention world wide.
Schacht: “The hydraulic power unit is no longer present here. The hydraulic servo valve that controls the motion of actuators is instead replaced by a directly coupled pump and an electromotor. So there is a direct link between the rotation speed of the pump and the movement of the actuator.
In other words, when it doesn’t move, it won’t consume any power. Nevertheless, it can still exert high forces. Where traditional hydraulic systems reach an energy efficiency of about 50 – 60%, this hybrid system brings significant improvements up to 90%. This also has an impact on the oil reservoir. A HPU of 500 kW traditionally has an oil reserve of 4.000 – 5.000 l. Now a volume of 1.000 l will suffice. Furthermore, this adds the advance of much less critical piping.”
Completely electrical for smaller forces
Next to hybrid systems, Vydraulics also offers completely electric solutions.
“The technology behind electromotors will need a giant leap forward to be able to handle forces of more than a 1.000 ton. We won’t be seeing completely electrical alternatives in these categories the first coming years. But that doesn’t mean electrification isn’t on its way yet for components that don’t require that much power, like locking pins. For instance, we are now working on a fully electrical system for the linear motion of cradles on ships that are used to transport monopiles for the offshore industry.
A solution that will save over 400 kW on installed hydraulic capacity, equal to a 20 ft container and a lot of piping. Another step in the right, sustainable direction”, states Schacht proudly.
Another milestone in the electrification of the offshore market that shows Vydraulics’ ambition to develop ‘fit for purpose’ solutions for its customers that have technological advancement in their core.
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