Helicopters are elevating the offshore wind sector and PHI is ready for take off
By Cory Latiolais, Chief Commercial Officer – PHI Aviation
Energy transition continues to be a major theme in 2021, with technology, political, social and economic factors driving the global transition. The world’s biggest companies and investors are lining up financing. In 2020, spending on wind and solar projects rose to nearly $220 billion, up from $135 billion six years earlier. As the demand for lower emissions and increased sustainability grows, interest in opportunities in offshore wind has never been greater. And PHI is no exception. As offshore wind projects become larger and further from shore, the importance of comprehensive planning to address infrastructure needs becomes even more critical, and we believe helicopters are a key part of the logistical equation.
A Natural Fit
Backed by our 70+ years of experience servicing the offshore oil and gas industry, we’ve narrowed down three key challenges that shape offshore energy operations: weather, time and safety. Over the last few years, extreme weather events have increased with predictions suggesting the upward trend will only continue. From record-breaking heat waves to rampant wildfires and, recently in the United States, the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, planning for contingencies in the offshore environment is more important than ever to support the development of sustainable energy operations.
The challenge becomes mitigating adverse operational impacts with weather and sea state conditions in a safe and timely fashion—that’s where our helicopter operations come in.
Accessibility plays a huge factor in offshore energy operations, and we know that helicopters are uniquely equipped to handle the challenges of the often harsh and unpredictable offshore environments. With the ability to operate in sea state conditions with up to a six-meter wave height, helicopters can reduce or even eliminate the need for other traditional forms of transportation for offshore wind developments.
Helicopters provide the fastest form of transport to and from offshore assets. By spending less time traveling to and from shore, operators can streamline their service operations and logistics for a more efficient and effective use of resources. In fact, using helicopters as the primary form of travel approximately doubles onsite productive work time.
But the benefits don’t end there! Crew transportation by helicopters offers the lowest CO2 per passenger mile of any currently available offshore transportation option, producing half the amount of emissions on a per passenger basis. And with continued advancements in helicopter manufacturing and engine technology, we expect emissions to reduce even further in the coming years.
Most importantly, helicopters provide safe and reliable transportation to manage risks in the offshore environment. Recent studies show that occupational injuries are 170 percent higher when traveling to and from offshore wind farms in standard modes of transportation. Occupational safety is always a top priority as the safety of our employees and passengers is of the utmost importance.
Our team has the experience to mitigate risks throughout all phases of flight operations, and in the event of onsite injuries, we can evacuate people and deliver necessary assistance quickly and safely.
Offshore Wind on the Horizon
Analyzing the costs and benefits of transporting work crews offshore, helicopters make sense as the logical transportation partner for offshore wind, and diversification into the offshore wind environment is a natural progression of our services. PHI’s extensive experience in the offshore oil and gas industry sets us apart and demonstrates our ability to deliver services that meet and exceed the needs of the offshore wind industry—both in support of construction and ongoing maintenance of wind turbines.
As the offshore wind energy project development and operations pipeline grows, selecting a helicopter operator to support construction and ongoing operations will be key for success. Our business development and commercial teams across PHI Aviation know that collaboration and early engagement with partners is key to helping us unlock the most value in this complex environment, and we are already building relationships in the offshore wind sector. Recently, I was honored to speak at the US Offshore Wind 2021–the biggest offshore wind conference in the United States–about the natural fit between helicopters and offshore wind operators who need safe, efficient and reliable transport of people and materials to support their critical projects. It was great to connect directly with operators in the sector and to give them insight into how PHI can help continue to progress their projects. You can watch my presentation on PHI Aviation’s LinkedIn page or YouTube channel.
Over at International, the first tender for aviation services was submitted to support the construction of a wind farm off the coast of Taiwan, and the engagement between both parties has been positive. On both sides of our business, we anticipate many more tenders to support wind farms and other sustainable energy developments.
The demand for offshore wind energy has never been greater, and PHI has never been better positioned to capitalize on our deep understanding and experience in the offshore energy sector. Our flexibility, technology and dedication to safety—combined with our investments in aircraft, crews and facilities—makes us the best aviation services and logistics partner for the offshore wind industry. We can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for offshore wind and PHI!