PASSER eyeing floating wind

The work on the vertical lay-up machine (VLM) for JDR’s new cable factory in the UK is now well underway in Klaipeda, Lithuania, where Norway-headquartered PASSER Group recently opened a new fabrication facility. The Group has revealed that, besides expanding its production capacity, it is also looking into areas for future business expansion, with floating wind being one of them, primarily due to the capabilities at PASSER SIDC in Lithuania.

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Orders in renewable energy, including offshore wind, and interconnector markets now account for over half of PASSER’s turnover, PASSER Group’s Business Development Director, Espen Brudal, said in an interview with our sibling news site

Klaipeda-based PASSER SIDC witnessed a 30 per cent growth in 2023, mostly as a result of PASSER Products rolling out the vertical lay-up machine and the market starting to boom in terms of deliveries of other products such as smaller carousels, reels and transportation baskets, according to PASSER SIDC’s CEO, Aivaras Kamas.

The Group’s portfolio of companies spans beyond the production of cable manufacturing and handling equipment and includes shipbuilding and vessel design, fabrication of steel structures, as well as engineering and project management. Having a multidisciplinary setup also enables both the Group and a single company within it to offer one-stop-shop solutions, Brudal and Kamas pointed out.

“Our range of products stretches across multiple areas, from equipment for cable manufacturing and handling to everything that has to do with steel – and we have full welding certification so we can deliver the highest standard possible in this regard,” Aivaras Kamas said.

“When it comes to our capabilities, here too we are able to cover the full range, from engineering, project management, fabrication, installation, to final documentation and commissioning.”

Kamas further added that being part of the PASSER Group gives PASSER SIDC the advantage of having the full value chain under one roof, which ensures providing the highest quality possible.

“Following mechanical installation, we’re now adding E&I to our offering, so the full scope will be in-house. By not depending on external suppliers and having full control over things such as delivery terms, we can mitigate delays that were previously not under our control and better coordinate on executing our contracts more efficiently.”

Vertical lay-up machine for JDR’s new cable factory taking final shape

At the moment, PASSER is working on the production of the vertical lay-up machine (VLM) for JDR Cable Systems’ new subsea cable manufacturing facility in Blyth, UK.

Vertical lay-up machine components at PASSER’s workshop in Klaipeda; Photo: Navingo BV

JDR is building the new plant to be able to meet an expected increase in demand for high-voltage cables in the middle of the decade, the cable manufacturer said in November 2023, when the company announced that all piling for the foundations of the VLM and continuous catenary vulcanization towers (CCV) had been completed.

Once operational, the factory will become the only facility in the UK capable of full start-to-finish manufacturing of high-voltage subsea cables, according to the company.

At PASSER, the majority of the job of fabricating the vertical lay-up machine for JDR’s new factory has been assigned to the fabrication facility in Klaipeda, Lithuania, which officially went into operation in October 2023.

The new workshop has been built to A+ energy class, with energy efficiency and metal dust collectors and other filter systems in place, and solar panels planned to be installed in due course.

The aim for the workshop in Klaipeda from the start was to make it as ‘green’ as possible, as part of PASSER’s strategy for decarbonization and the Group’s ESG goals.

The Lithuania-based company is set to start its ESG reporting in 2025, but it already began with some activities last year. Group-wide, PASSER is at the beginning of its ESG reporting journey and is currently setting up a system to encompass all its companies and value chains in one place.

“This is the challenge of being a global group. We need to align with local regulations and requirements which are not necessarily the same across all the locations where our companies are, such as Lithuania, Norway, and the Netherlands. We need to include all the local requirements, ’pulling everything together into one system and that is what we are currently working on,” said Espen Brudal, Business Development Director at PASSER Group.

Offshore wind, interconnector market growth driving PASSER’s capacity expansion

The decision to build the new environmentally friendly workshop in Klaipeda came as the need to set up large enough in-house fabrication capacity arose, which was also driven by the significant increase in offshore wind, other renewable energy, and interconnector projects, according to Brudal.

With the new facility, PASSER went from 2,000 square metres to around 7,000 square metres of space to house its fabrication capacity.

“One of the main drivers is certainly the increasing demand in the subsea cable market, including interconnector and offshore wind industries which are seeing unprecedented growth. In offshore wind, wind farm development is ramping up with ever-increasing capacities. We see more and more demand for longer and larger cable,” Espen Brudal said.

Now that cable manufacturers need to expand their capacities, many are currently building new subsea cable plants. As they expand their capacities, PASSER also needs to follow suit as the requirement for cable manufacturing equipment, as well as that for cable handling and storage products, grows together with the market.

PASSER’s new fabrication facility in Klaipeda; Photo: PASSER SIDC

“As the demand in the cable market continues to increase, cable manufacturing plants see that they need to expand to meet the demand. With the energy transition underway and ambitious national targets, cable manufacturers are also pressed to the max and are selling cables out of factories they haven’t built yet,” Brudal said.

“This includes offshore wind as well as interconnector projects since there are now many cross-border connection plans, and there are also other energy markets in demand of subsea cables.”

The market situation combined with PASSER’s product portfolio makes the Group well set to meet the upcoming demand, according to Espen Brudal.

PASSER SIDC in exploratory talks with floating foundation tech developer

In addition to interconnectors and fixed-bottom offshore wind, the future growth of floating wind is also expected to further increase the cable demand and subsequently the requirement for cable manufacturing capacities.

For floating wind, PASSER Group says it is not only well-positioned to deliver its existing cable handling and manufacturing equipment – but also mooring transportation solutions by tapping into the Group’s experience with serving the FPSO market.

The shift from providing mooring rope reels for FPSOs to reels for floating wind mooring ropes requires some development since floating wind turbines to be installed in deeper waters will be secured to the seabed by much longer mooring lines, so the cost efficiency of producing the reels and the transportation to farther locations such as Asia need to be worked on.

Nevertheless, this is not the only floating wind area which PASSER has its eye on, as the Group is also looking into leveraging its capabilities to build floating wind foundations.

PASSER SIDC’s CEO Aivaras Kamas revealed the company is currently in exploratory talks with Gazelle Wind Power, the Ireland-based developer of a hybrid modular floating wind platform.

Kamas did not disclose any further details about the collaboration with the floating wind tech developer, saying the companies are in an early talks stage.

“We’ve been working in shipbuilding and building steel structures for a pretty long time, so we are able to add construction of steel floating wind foundations by building upon these capabilities,” Aivaras Kamas said.

Talks also underway for hydrogen-powered offshore wind farm service vessel

PASSER’s company in Klaipeda is also in talks with a potential client for its clean fuel-powered vessel specifically designed for the servicing of offshore wind farms.

PASSER SIDC’s hydrogen-powered wind farm service vessel design; Image: PASSER SIDC

The zero-emission vessel is designed for the transport of personnel, spare parts and components required during the maintenance, repair or installation activities at offshore wind farms.

Kamas left the potential client unnamed but provided a few details about the new vessel, whose concept design the company introduced in 2021.

The new design is an upgrade to the company’s vessel designed for oil spill recovery and fish farming, with the hull and the bow of the vessel redesigned and other capabilities added to enable it to serve the offshore wind industry.

The service vessel can be powered by hydrogen or methanol and also includes additional electricity generators which can be used in the cases of high energy demand.

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