ORE Catapult takes closer look at biofouling

The project led by the ORE Catapult could see the creation of a detailed map to identify the type, speed of growth and prevalence of attaching organisms with the aim of better informing the operation and maintenance of subsea equipment.

The overall aim of the project is to map for how communities of these attaching creatures vary around the UK’s coast and to develop a sensor to measure their growth rates, with the purpose of better advising offshore installations and developing preventative methods.

Vicky Coy, ORE Catapult’s Project Manager, said: “Biofouling is a huge issue both in the UK and across the world. We work closely with offshore renewable energy technology developers and biofouling is repeatedly highlighted to us as a potential challenge for the renewables industry and related sectors. The project outcomes will also support greater understanding of the evolving bio-diversity of our seas.”

Many industries, including renewables, shipping and telecommunications, rely on subsea equipment for their day to day operations, however the growth of such organisms can have a detrimental effect on electricity production, maintenance operations, repairs and ultimately costs.

Dense marine growth on structures such as marine buoys or turbines can weigh in excess of 22 kg per square metre, causing large increases in structural load and accelerating damage, particularly on moving components.

Raeanne Miller, Marine Scientist at SAMS, said: “Biologists already have some tools and datasets to predict the type of biofouling which may develop on subsea structures and more data will continue to support the assessment of forthcoming sites for development and the planning for accurate maintenance and cleaning levels. Mapping these habitats won’t just be useful for industry, it could be a hugely important tool to help preserve indigenous species and protect our seabeds.”

Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is leading the project in conjunction with researchers from SAMS Research Services, PML Applications and paint manufacturer AkzoNobel.