It has been a great first year for the North Sea Link team – from building relationships with our Norwegian partners and making progress with tunnelling, through to getting ready for the challenge of the North Sea itself.
You may have read about the North Sea Link Interconnector, but as a quick reminder; Statnett and National Grid NSL Limited are partnering to construct a 1.4GW HVDC electricity interconnector between Norway and the UK. North Sea Link will connect Kvilldal in Norway, to Blyth in the UK, via HVDC cables trenched across the North Sea, and it will be operational in 2021. It will be the longest subsea interconnector in the world.
What’s been happening?
From the signing of our engineering, procurement and construction contracts in July 2015, and the mobilisation of the construction teams, a phenomenal amount of work has already taken place, especially at our site in Kvilldal, which is now really taking shape.
Our cable tunnel is now over 1km in length and each day we are averaging three blasts, using one and a half tonnes of explosives. The tunnel is scheduled to be completed by December this year. The avalanche walls protecting the converter site are already progressing well, as are the 15 acre converter site works.
Alongside work in Kvilldal, one of our main priorities has been to fully integrate the National Grid and Statnett project teams, who are located in our project offices in Solihull and Oslo (Norway). Our ‘one team’ ethos is supported by the project charter that we developed from the offset of the construction phrase; this gives a great sense of working together to deliver this massive project.
It’s resulting in a very tight-knit project team, with a positive and challenging dynamic, a great blend of experience and technical know-how, and teams who are like-minded in delivering a great project. It’s been great for the teams to get to know more about each other’s cultures and this makes for interesting work!
We are all under no illusion about the extent of the challenges that lie ahead, but we are not complacent and we are making sure that we look outwards to embrace best practice and lessons learnt from others.
If I look ahead to the next 12 months, we will continue to develop our ‘one team’ ethos, embrace challenge as a team, embed our processes and make quicker decisions. Being happy and continuing to make work fun is also on the agenda!
As we start the manufacturing phase, we must oversee high-quality assurance processes in the factories. We will start to progress the 92 or so cable crossing agreements with third parties, and in Blyth we are focused on easements, land license conditions and stakeholder management – we will be starting site works in Q1 2017.
We will finalise our detailed designs and prepare for the challenge of the North Sea and Fjord marine activities. We know that the cable and marine programme is very tight and an important area of focus for us is to develop strategies to make sure that we have plans to accommodate slippage of any kind. This will help us meet our scheduled commissioning date of end of December 2021.
I should also make it clear that safety remains our number one priority, as it is with our partners Statnett. We must keep people safe in the tough and rugged environments where we will work. We will also have to treat the environment with respect and make sure our quality records are exemplary.
For me, and I’m sure for the entire team, this is a very challenging and enjoyable project and one which will give us all an experience to cherish. Projects like North Sea Link offer an amazing opportunity to get directly involved in programmes, finance, commercial, consents, treasury, contract management, cable technology, HVDC technology, deep water working, international relationships and European politics… all in one project.
I’m sure you’ll agree it’s not every day these opportunities come along.
Project Director North Sea Link Interconnector