Photo: The new and improved HarshLab (Courtesy of Tecnalia)

Tecnalia unveils largest floating test lab for offshore industry

Spanish research and technological development centre Tecnalia has unveiled a new version of the HarshLab laboratory with increased features and capabilities to carry out tests and research and development activities to address the needs of offshore industries and increase their competitiveness.

Photo showing the new and improved HarshLab (Courtesy of Tecnalia)
The new and improved HarshLab (Courtesy of Tecnalia)

Following the success of the platform that was commissioned in 2018 at Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BiMEP), Tecnalia has created a new, bigger, version of the HarshLab laboratory, said to be unique in Europe.

The new HarshLab has increased features and capabilities that will enable the testing of operation of equipment on board thanks to electrical and data connection, and samples to be lowered to the seabed.

In this way, companies will be able to reliably predict how the different systems to be used in the marine environment are going to perform, which could extend their useful life and affect the safety of their use.

HarshLab will therefore address the needs of the offshore industry and increase its competitiveness, according to Tecnalia.

A connected laboratory

The launch of the first HarshLab in 2018 represented a breakthrough for the offshore industry in Europe and since then, it has provided a service to more than 20 companies, testing more than 500 products and samples.

The samples were related to new materials and solutions against corrosion, ageing or fouling in the marine environment (the phenomenon through which solid material accumulates and adheres to elements submerged or in contact with seawater: algae, mussels, barnacles, among others).

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Like its predecessor, the new version, which will be launched in the coming weeks, will enable new materials and developments for the offshore industry to be tested in a real environment under controlled conditions.

Reflecting the increased capabilities to the first version, the second HarshLab will be connected to the grid and communications network via dynamic cable that will connect it to the BiMEP underwater network, which will enable data to be collected and its subsequent analysis.

Thanks to this connection, HarshLab will be able to test the operation of equipment on board and make it easier to handle loads by means of several embedded systems: hydraulic crane, outer davit and inner hoists, Tecnalia said.

The new laboratory has a diameter of 8.5 metres by 7 metres in height, which provides it with greater testing capacity.

On the other hand, thanks to the revamped characteristics of this new version, anchoring elements can also be tested or tests can be performed on the seabed up to a depth of 65 metres. It also has its own weather station and an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to carry out inspections remotely.

In short, this laboratory will enable materials, components and equipment to be assessed when they are submerged, in the atmospheric area (above the water), in what is known as the splash area (where the waves break) and on the seabed.

To date, this information was obtained from laboratory testing but the results were not always extrapolated to what actually happens at sea, Tecnalia said.

In this way, companies will be able to reliably predict how the different systems to be used in the marine environment for the research and development of new technological solutions for the offshore industry are going to perform, which will affect their safety and extend their life cycle.