SoundingsPath Being Cleared to Test Large-Scale Wave Energy Devices Off Oregon. BOEM has taken an important step toward issuing a research lease for a facility to test utility-scale wave energy devices in federal waters off Oregon. The noncompetitive lease would be for the offshore area where the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University would site the hydrokinetic energy research project. The Center is one of three national research groups supported by the Department of Energy to facilitate the development of marine renewable energy technology. The center proposes to design, build and operate the Pacific Marine Energy Center – South Energy Test Site about 4 nautical miles offshore Newport, where water depths range from 180 to 230 feet. The project is designed to support up to 20 megawatts of electricity generation, which would be transmitted to the mainland grid via a subsea cable. BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast: two noncompetitive leases and three competitive leases, and has scheduled another competitive lease sale for a Wind Energy Area off Massachusetts later this year. BOEM expects to hold additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, and New Jersey in the next year.
Artemis ends Side Scan Sonar Operations for Flight 370. Phoenix International Holdings, Inc. (Largo, Maryland) has completed side scan sonar search operations for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 using the company’s Artemis AUV. AUV operations commenced following the end of the towed pinger locator (TPL) mission in mid-April. The Phoenix search team returned to port for demobilization after conducting TPL and AUV search operations on board the ADV Ocean Shield for almost 60 days. During the side scan sonar phase of the search effort, the Phoenix Project Team deployed the Artemis AUV to water depths up to 5,005 meters of seawater (the deepest depth ever achieved by a Bluefin-21 AUV) to search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Artemis recorded more than 370 hours of in-water time and searched approximately 870 square kilometers of seafloor, collecting important side scan sonar data. Phoenix is part of a multinational team from 26 countries assisting in the search for the lost aircraft.
Increasing Demand for Offshore Accommodation Support in North Sea. Declining North Sea production and increasingly mature assets are expected to drive demand for offshore accommodation support, with the attributed maintenance, refurbishment and shutdown work requiring additional personnel-on-board and workshop capacity, according to Douglas-Westwood. However, the harsh metocean conditions of the northern North Sea (NNS) ultimately limit operator choice to two types of accommodation—jack-up barges and semisubs—due to the greater stability and safety offered. Despite growing demand for semisub units, the sector is plagued by constrained global supply and limited availability, placing upward pressure on day rates. Operators are placing contracts several years in advance to ensure maintenance or construction schedules are satisfied. This is forcing operators to seek more efficient contracting practices, either through unit-sharing agreements or securing units on an annual basis. A key emerging trend in the floating accommodation sector is employee welfare. In the NNS, several large operators and service contractors have identified a trend between hours worked by offshore personnel and the quality of worker accommodation. The industry needs offshore accommodation capable of working in harsh conditions. Although the market will see 11 new units delivered between 2015 and 2016, continued growth in demand for accommodation semisubs, intensified by unit retirement, will further constrain supply.
New Reports Show Farm Pollution Still Problem for Chesapeake Bay. Two new reports by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), entitled “Poultry’s Phosphorus Problem and Murky Waters: More Accountability Needed for Farm Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay,” demonstrate that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be over-estimating reductions in farm pollution and that phosphorus and algae concentrations remain too high in rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and have shown no real improvement in the last decade. The reports analyze trends in phosphorus pollution levels from 2003 to 2013 in the eight major waterways on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Recent evidence indicates that certain “best management practices” by farms to reduce such pollution may not be working as well as intended, despite the best efforts of EPA, state agencies and farmers. EPA and the states have acknowledged this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Phosphorus pollution spurs excessive growth of algae, which then dies and creates low-oxygen dead zones. The high-pollution levels are in rivers that are surrounded by 1,339 chicken farms that generate waste containing 30 million pounds of phosphate. Agriculture is the largest source of pollution in the bay, contributing 57 percent of the phosphorus pollution, 42 percent of the nitrogen, and 59 percent of the sediment in the estuary in 2013, according to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program.
Pioneer Equipment Certification Center for Green Ships Opens. The world’s first green-ship equipment certification center is now open in Gunsan, South Korea. Costing a total of 30 billion won, the new center will test, evaluate and certify green-ship equipment. Fully supported by Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, the center will also carry out joint research and development projects focusing on green-ship technology, expand Korea’s test and certification business, and attract related businesses to the area. The center was created in response to IMO’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction and maritime pollution regulations. The new center is equipped with an 8-megawatt-class engine testbed, hybrid power systems, a fuel Q/P and emission bench, organic ranking cycle systems and other facilities. The 8-megawatt-class engine testbed is the first to be available anywhere in the world and is attracting significant interest from major shipyards.