Heerema Marine Contractors and Heerema Fabrication Group are currently working with the University of Dundee's School of Science and Engineering on technology that could significantly reduce or eliminate underwater noise pollution.
Throughout the marine industry, there is an increasing focus on sustainability, which has introduced measures to reduce air pollution from harmful emissions within many companies. However, noise pollution, especially within offshore construction, is an area that still requires significant improvements.
The impact of noise pollution on marine life is two-fold; there are concerns about direct hearing damage in animals (temporary or permanent) alongside disruption to their communication and navigation signals, which in turn can affect migratory patterns. All of these issues can cause stress to marine life, and with difficulties gathering data, the long-term impact is unknown.
During the installation of wind turbines, wind farm substations, converter platforms, and traditional oil and gas facilities, pile-driving operations generate considerable noise. Globally, several countries are challenging noise pollution by introducing underwater noise restrictions; however, for Heerema, the ambition is to go further than to be compliant and to create 'silent foundations.' The development of alternative pile foundations that could be installed without producing significant underwater noise is currently ongoing.
The foundation concept under development is called push-in piles, with a design that replaces a traditional single open tubular pile with a cluster of four smaller diameter open tubular piles. This design can eliminate noise pollution as it requires no pile-driving or hammering - instead, after some strokes, each of the piles is pushed into the soil with two or three providing the uplift resistance required to push in the fourth. This concept might sound complicated, but it uses a similar principle to onshore installations of sheet pile walls.