UK-based Marine Energy Centre launches JIP with Canadian counterpart to study underwater coatings on both sides of the Atlantic
Marine coatings must survive and protect against some of the toughest working environments. Where better to test them, then, than in some of the areas of strongest tides and waves on either side of the Atlantic? A new joint industry project (JIP) was recently announced between coatings manufacturer Whitford, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE). Using test sites at the respective facilities in Orkney and Nova Scotia, Whitford will compare how its coatings perform in each environment.
According to a statement from EMEC, the project has its roots in a joint declaration made in 2011 by the then Prime Ministers of the UK and Canada, David Cameron and Stephen Harper. This saw the two pledge to work together to increase growth, trade and innovation, which in turn led Innovate UK and the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA) to set up the trans-Atlantic project, partnering EMEC and FORCE to work on the InSTREAM project, which tested sensor technology. Since then, the two have shared knowledge and results gained from numerous tidal and wave energy tests. Indeed, during a recent visit to Nova Scotia, EMEC managing Neil Kermode noted that he might have an application relevant to the FORCE project. Kermode explained: “Corrosion and other associated issues are a big challenge for wave and tidal energy technologies given that devices could be deployed at sea for years at a time. During discussions we realised that the marine conditions experienced at FORCE’s test site in Nova Scotia are very different from what we are seeing across the pond at EMEC, in Orkney. So the inclusion of a technology testing programme with us will provide a different experience if they then decide to deploy in Canada, or vice versa.”
Bay watch The Bay of Fundy is one of the most extreme tidal environments in which to test these coatings. With 14 billion tonnes of water moved every tide, at speeds in excess of 20km per hour, they encounter far more than the oxidation and marine growth which might be common to oil and gas infrastructure. FORCE general manager Tony Wright commented: “Working in the world’s highest tides is a challenge, but also an opportunity for technologies to meet the ultimate test of durability: the ‘Fundy Standard.’ EMEC and FORCE are both working to advance the marine renewable energy sector responsibly and economically, and opportunities like this – to share research, knowledge and technology – [are] critical to that work.” Whitford and EMEC have been working together since 2014, conducting tests on the performance of coatings in the dynamic and volatile environments found at EMEC’s test sites in Orkney. Whitford’s Gareth Berry noted that in addition to the results, it may help qualify the company’s coatings for use in the Canadian market: “The Canadian market is really big due to the scale of the marine energy resource and we are keen to get our product tested and proven there too.” Kermode is confident that there will be further opportunities to expand the project further to get a full understanding how new materials behave at different sites across the globe – a move which could be beneficial for renewables and the marine sector as a whole. “The corrosion and other behaviour experienced in the northern hemisphere will be different from that in the south, and it’ll be different in the tropics compared to temperate areas. The potential for marine energy, however, is global, and technology developers will need to be prepared for this,” he stated.