Constructing, operating and maintaining offshore transformer platforms can be problematic for one main reason: they don't tend to be standardised. The result is that plenty of time, money and human resources are spent training personnel to deal with the specifications of each project. Being able to solve this problem is why KRAL and Group2E's partnership places them beyond their competitors.
"Substations tend to be very different from one another," says Daniel Krisch, managing director of Group2E. "Our experience of working on a variety of platforms and substations means we can help guide KRAL as to which of its systems will be best suited to the particular project."
An independent construction supervision company, Group2E offers support to its customers from the first steel girder on the wharf to the commissioning of technology at sea. It works closely with general contractors and initiates the trading of technical equipment for maritime structures.
The advantage of this approach is that the company is positioned to identify and address any faults or potential errors, such as location conflicts, in a way that eliminates potentially expensive complaints and dangerous situations at sea. It is important to avoid any disasters in an industry where a positive public image is so essential.
Group2E is a relatively young company with offshore service engineers and construction teams that are fresh, eager and adaptable, which makes the company more flexible to its customers' needs. This is an important characteristic and is shared by both companies.
"KRAL is also very flexible," says Thomas Flauger, head of marketing at KRAL. "We offer not only a standard catalogue programme but also tailor-made pumps and modules to fit any offshore requirement."
Often, a project will need customised products and solutions. "They might need a specific type of pump to be positioned in a particular way," Krisch says. "KRAL provides the systems; we provide the solutions and services offshore."
KRAL is a traditional machine manufacturing company founded in 1950 and, for decades, it has manufactured screw pumps for the marine and power-generation industries, especially for heavy fuel oil demands.
"We excel at manufacturing components for rough environments, and we provide expert knowledge to the industry," says Flauger, "Marine-classification societies often seek KRAL's knowledge of pumps and products.
"When we talk of providing pumps, we are referring to the delivery of fluid-handling skids or modules - mainly dieselgenerator fuel, lube oil and helicopter fuel - to transformer platforms, not single pumps. Pumps are the parts of a more complex module."
Previously more adept at land-based power stations, KRAL accessed Group2E's knowledge to understand, for example, the difference between a fluid-handling module for landbased power plants and those used at offshore power plants. There are differences in weight, available space on the platform (offshore sites have a drastically reduced amount of space) and connections to pipes, for example. Consequently, KRAL has optimised the modules for transformer platforms to fit the smaller base area, exploited the lower room height and maximised accessibility.
Practical experience comes from Group2E, while KRAL provides design and manufacturing knowledge.
"We are happy to have a source of practical experience that flows into the development of KRAL," says Flauger.
Broadly speaking, there are three types of companies that benefit from the combined services of KRAL and Group2E: those that construct and operate wind farms; manufacturers of large steel platforms; and suppliers of equipment to companies working on the platforms. The products from KRAL, which include everything related to screw pumps, are required by providers of AC and AC/DC platforms for substations, offshore suppliers, and marine and shipping companies.
KRAL puts a lot of emphasis on providing only the best manufactured products, which are made locally in Austria.
"At the heart of our modules are the pumps, which are manufactured according to total quality-management procedures and ISO certifications," Flauger says. "It is highquality manufacturing; KRAL is number three in the market for screw pumps.
"After the marine crisis, a lot of old shipyards started to manufacture offshore platforms with their own welding shops. We handle not only the welding and piping of modules but also the detailed engineering, manufacturing and documentation within the company, on its own manufacturing machines, and in its welding cabins and painting shops. We manufacture the pumps ourselves, so it is a quality manufacturing and design outfit. We take our pump installation experience to many different sites and combine it with Group2E's expertise."
Group2E installs and services the pump systems on platforms and ships, and provides engineering knowledge to offshore construction projects and substation designers that have incorporated its products into their design specifications. The company has worked for several years as site manager and design consultant for, among others, major organisations such as TenneT and Global Tech 1, providing vital services for efficiently built and run substations.
"We have extensive knowledge of the systems and the needs of clients on the platforms," Krisch says. "We help ensure the project's success with our technical skills; we also bring ideas to clients to help facilitate a better construction at sea. With nearly a decade of experience building platforms, we understand the needs of customers."
Krisch and Flauger speak a lot about the value of intimately understanding the industry through many years on the front line; the pair cites it as one of the major reasons to choose them over their competitors in the market.
"Due to our practical experience in construction, refurbishing and client representation, we are able to provide engineering ideas to KRAL and solutions to our customers using KRAL pumps," Krisch says.
Beyond the companies' years of excellence and flexible approach to offshore solutions, KRAL and Group2E share the same values when it comes to dealing with customers: openness and collaboration.
"To provide the best solutions, we need discussions with customers and practically experienced people on the platforms who understand real installations," Flauger says.
The companies are excited about the future of the offshore wind industry generally and the development of offshore platforms specifically.
"We have the impression that innovation in offshore platforms is just beginning," Flauger says. "There is a need for new, reliable and cheap solutions to produce costefficient electricity."
While there is a lot to focus on in the future, Flauger says it is essential that the companies are concentrated on the present, which requires urgent standardisation of equipment, construction and services for offshore platforms. Constant comparisons between previous jobs and new projects need to be made to ensure consistency runs throughout and improvement is always sought.
"If we are able to provide pumps for standardised platforms for similar conditions, teams will arrive on site and be equipped to start working straight away," Krisch says. "They will see a pump from KRAL and know what to do. It's about finding a gold standard or benchmark for all systems and solutions within the industry."
While the future presents opportunities to innovate, the immediate concern is making the offshore industry's transformer platforms more consistent. It won't be an easy task, but when customer satisfaction, open debate and collaborative approaches are laid as the foundations of good business, clients should feel confident about this highly skilled partnership.