TAG Energy Solutions, Ltd., based on the River Tees on the North East coast of England, has invested £30 million in a span of 18 months to fully outfit a state-of-the-art production facility to serve the growing renewable energy sector. Included is advanced welding automation equipment – totalling more than £ 2 million – purchased from ESAB UK.
TAG’s 7000 square metre automated tubular production facility is set on 42 acres and includes a manufacturing unit and large construction hall, extensive wet dock, a blast and paint facility and a 6000te load out quay. Here, TAG is able to roll and weld large diameter tubulars and construct foundations, including monopiles (hollow diameter cylinders driven into the seabed), transition pieces, tripods/jackets (frames with supporting legs) and gravity foundations (large concrete/steel structures).
TAG built its reputation in the offshore oil and gas sector. With its new state-of-the-art facility, TAG leverages its experience in building large diameter thick tubes and renews its brand to address the growing offshore wind market.
Currently almost all commercial offshore wind farms are built in European waters. With the expected growth in the UK and German markets in particular, the demand for the support structures required will stretch the existing supply chain. TAG stands ready to capitalise on the growth. The company purchased two 300-ton growing lines from ESAB to handle the rotating and positioning of tubular structures up to 350s ton using the growing line production principal. A recent investment in two additional 1000-ton growing lines took into consideration a market requirement for cans of larger diameter and length required for offshore deep water installations.
According to Commercial Director Glenn Wilson, the growing lines are essential for handling the long cylindrical workpieces to minimise alignment, handling and fabrication time. The larger cans required TAG’s full handling capacity, hence the need for the additional growing line system that provided greater capacity and allows for higher production.
Mr Wilson explains: “Companies want to move to deeper waters so the diameters and the lengths of the cans has significantly changed. We had to add the two 1000-ton lines to carry out existing work.”
Independently adjustable rollers
The new 1000-ton growing lines include ESAB FIT 100 roller beds with built-in hydraulic height adjustment and FIR 500 heavy-duty units for aligning the sections, as well as CD-1000 and Ci-1000 conventional roller beds with rail bogies and anti-creep. The alignment is carried out by the FIT and FIR units. The FIR 500 features four independently adjustable rollers to precisely align the workpieces with each other and two cross-rollers to conveniently lift up the section for conveying out the workpiece. The FIT 100 also features independently adjusted rollers to align the workpieces with each other.
The roller beds offer a rugged design with durable rollers and oversized bearings. A cast steel gearbox with double worm gear arrangement ensures smooth operation and minimum backlash. A solid state inverter provides precise speed control.
ESAB roller beds are designed to enable large round items to be welded and handled during rotation welding and are well suited for wind tower production. Using conventional roller beds, the operator manually and mechanically sets the distance between the rollers to different diameters.
The growing lines provide a fully integrated system with hydraulic fit up, lift and transfer. TAG selected ESAB for the handling equipment based on product quality and reputation.
Stuart Dawson, Operations Director, says: “Many of us at TAG have worked in large fabrication yards, so we were well aware of ESAB historically. ESAB was by far the sharpest candidate for the rotational equipment. Their equipment is robust and reliable, so it was easy for us to select ESAB both from a technical and commercial perspective.”
Delivery time was critical to get the new equipment installed and up and running to start production work for a job at hand. A typical offshore wind tower project takes 12 to 18 months to complete. Mr Dawson notes: “There was a delivery factor. We had to move fairly quickly to get this custom equipment installed to be ready to run. We were able to inspect the ESAB lines in production and were well impressed with how the manufacturing was being conducted.”
A key feature of the ESAB growing line systems was the motorised anti-creep. Mr Dawson explains: “When you fabricate straight cans, they tend not to be too much of a problem, so there is no real technical preference. You just fabricate them and weld them together. The challenge comes with fabricating cones, with conical sections that you have to develop and weld. A cone will want to slide off the manipulators because of its shape. ESAB has an anti-drift system that’s proven to be extremely useful for us. If the monopiles are sliding down, the unit is only allowed to move 300mm and then the manipulators will automatically adjust it from slipping.”
TAG has manufactured tubes to 101m in length, 6.5m in diameter and up to 100mm thick. Their heaviest structure to date is a 6.5m, 650 ton tubular.
From the growing lines, the cans are essentially complete. Mr Dawson says: “Apart from any fit up that needs to be done externally or internally, which happens on the transition pieces, the foundation pieces which go into the seabed generally don’t have any attachments other than paint markings. These go from the growing line to paint and externally we would take it outside for any paint markings, but internally, we have a separate paint marking facility that would do the transition pieces inside and out.”
From the time TAG considered expanding into the renewable energy sector and during the process of defining the new facility, ESAB has provided good support. Mr Dawson says: “We tried to future proof our facility. ESAB helped us with the strategic planning.”
Mr Wilson says: “We have good relationships with the UK sales office. They are very knowledgeable and responsive to our needs and wishes. We’re still implementing improvements to get our foothold in the marketplace, but we have some good support from ESAB.”
Today TAG’s operation stands as among the most advanced of its kind, aligning the company to meet the needs of the growing renewable energy market. TAG is currently in the process of delivering 16 monopiles and transition pieces for the Humber Gateway wind farm – the first contract of its kind to be awarded to a UK company.
For further information about welding automation equipment from ESAB, please go to www.esab.co.uk.