Subsea sector could provide a leg up

The UK’s established subsea sector could provide a leg up for emerging industries, like wave and tidal energy. (Image: Atlantis Resources) The UK’s established subsea sector could provide a leg up for emerging industries, like wave and tidal energy. (Image: Atlantis Resources)

“The UK pioneered much of the technology that enables oil and gas production from challenging environments due to the experience we gained in exploiting the North Sea resources,” said Gordon Drummond, project director of the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI).

While the current low oil price has resulted in a pull back from that particular market, there are plenty of others that could do with the know-how.

For example, "the relative immaturity of wave and tidal energy production” means that at the moment, it’s currently more expensive than many other generating resources explained Dr Drummond.

But he said, given the right assistance from tech developments and the subsea supply chain, both sectors have the potential to extract sustainable energy from the ocean at a reduced cost. Not only would this push forward the development of large-scale wave and tidal power farms, but it would also help existing developers find ways to diversify.

So, NSRI’s Matchmaker database aims to connect “active” organisations he said: it’s already worked on capturing coherent information on university research departments and developers in segments such as oil and gas, defence, subsea mining and wind; now it’s the turn of both wave and tidal energy.

However, Matchmaker isn’t, he stressed “just another suppliers list”. To start with, it can return a list of players working on similar or complementary trajectories, rather than simply embracing products. Further, the database is thoroughly underpinned with a lot of market intelligence (often Drummond’s own) to make sure it’s not watered down by aspirational claims but by those with legitimate experience.

The effort should help nascent subsea industries lay down pathways to commercialisation that don’t spend precious resources reinventing the wheel, but there’s more to it, said Dr Drummond: “We are trying to safeguard the energy and effort that’s gone into subsea development, helping that diversify... and, at the end of the day, helping these developers stitch together their disparate capabilities, in order to meet the needs of the future.”

By Stevie Knight

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