New £1.6m simulation suite tipped to ‘transform’ North Sea decommissioning projects

Image credit: University of Aberdeen

A newly opened immersive simulation suite in Aberdeen has been tipped to transform approaches to offshore decommissioning and renewable energy infrastructure projects in the North Sea.

The £1.6 million facility is located in the National Decommissioning Centre (NDC) in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire. The centre is a partnership between the University of Aberdeen and the Net Zero Technology Centre.

The university explained that the ‘advanced’ capabilities of the suite provide a safe, virtual environment where users can simulate offshore and subsea operations in real time – such as the removal or installation of energy infrastructure, deploying equipment to vessels and facing challenging factors such as variable weather and tidal conditions.

The first funded project to utilise the simulator is assessing novel techniques for the installation of anchor systems for offshore floating wind turbines.  Working with local company Aubin, the project aims to deliver more cost-effective methods of anchor installation.

NDC staff are also working to create a virtual model of the entire North Sea. This involves mapping all offshore oil and gas and renewable infrastructure, as well as compiling key information such as lifespan, greenhouse gas emissions and power usage.

Professor George Boyne, principle of the University of Aberdeen, said, “The arrival of this state-of-the art simulation suite is testament to our commitment in promoting economic recovery for our region by working in partnership with industry.”

Myrtle Dawes, solutions centre director at the Net Zero Technology Centre, added, “The simulator is an important addition to the National Decommissioning Centre and will be a valuable resource for industry to establish the viability of future decommissioning and energy transition projects through scenario planning and data science.

“Harnessing data is a key element of our recently launched Net Zero Technology Transition Programme (NZTTP) which aims to transform the North Sea energy system, through the delivery of seven projects including Data for Net Zero (D4NZ). With data science, visualisation and computer modelling at its core, the D4NZ project will utilise the centre’s simulator to power forward a reimagined offshore energy system enabled by data sharing and evidence-based decision-making.”

Net zero and energy secretary, Michael Matheson, commented, “Decommissioning is a crucial part of our transition to becoming a net‐zero economy and the Scottish Government remains committed to supporting the sector. By capitalising on our strengths in energy, natural capital, innovation and skills, we can position Scotland at the forefront of growing global markets across the energy system, including decommissioning.

“The Scottish Government has invested over £4.5m in the National Decommissioning Centre, alongside additional funding through our £125 million commitment to the Aberdeen City Region Deal, and I am pleased to have supported the development of the new marine simulator, which is a great example of our efforts to ensure Scotland’s world class supply chain has the infrastructure required to remain competitive and become a centre of decommissioning excellence.”