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Award short-listing sounds starter gun on operator race to first

Award short-listing sounds starter gun on operator race to first


With the energy transition at the forefront of industry planning, the demand for innovative clean, green and climate technologies, has presented UK-based eco-engineering company, ARC Marine, with an opportunity to challenge operators in a race to see who will be first to uptake their ground-breaking seabed-infrastructure technology, Reef Cubes®, saving hundreds of millions in abandonment costs while increasing marine biodiversity and repairing global marine habitats.

Recently shortlisted in the HSE Innovation Award category at the 2020 SPE Offshore Achievement Awards, Reef Cubes® is the brainchild of founders Tom Birbeck and James Doddrell, professional HSE divers with an ambition to accelerate reef creation around the world, providing a cost effective and eco-system friendly alternative to existing subsea protection methods such as concrete mattresses, rock bags or frond mats, which have the potential to create trillions of marine Microplastics.

As the first ecological engineering company of it’s type in Europe, ARC Marine’s team of engineers, commercial divers and marine scientists have developed innovative technology to repair and regenerate damaged marine habitats by minimising eco-system shock and aquatic biodiversity loss caused by carbon-generating seabed infrastructure such as concrete matrices. As well as the environmental impacts of carbon reduction and marine regeneration, ARC Marine’s Reef Cubes® can also reduce future decommissioning time and costs to operators.

This disruptive technology is already making waves across the Energy Sector. Now with funding, Subsea UK, SUT & SAMS Membership, the hard work and investment by the founders has secured the young company investment, additional board members, several awards and accolades including UK Grants from DEFRA for aquaculture related pilot-projects and a win at the Rich North Sea Innovation Competition for Oyster Restoration in the depleted Dutch Sector.

Starting 2020 with an Offshore Achievement Awards shortlisting and commitment from Vattenfall to deploy Reef Cubes®  at the European Offshore Wind Development Centre (EOWDC) at Aberdeen Bay in 2020, ARC Marine are well placed to revolutionise seabed operations across the Energy Sector while also providing opportunities for nature and water-sport driven leisure and tourism.

In further validation, ARC Marine has been chosen from 850 start-ups globally, as one of only 12 companies to participate in the prestigious 12-week Ocean Katapult accelerator programme in Norway.  
Speaking of their investment, Maren Hjorth Bauer, CEO and Co-Founder of Katapult Ocean said
“The world’s reefs are essential for a thriving ocean but face tremendous challenges. We were impressed by the passion and knowledge of the ARC Marine team - combining expertise in marine biology and engineering to create an ocean enhancing construction material with multiple applications.”

ARC Marine are also pitching at the BlueInvest event in Brussels next month, providing a second bite of the cherry for eco-engineering investors.

Colin Black, MD of Carjon-NRG Ltd & ARC Marine Non-Executive Director, commented:

“As a Steering Group Member of OGUK Efficiency Task Force (ETF) I was aware of the significant cost reduction & efficiency work carried out by the ‘Subsea Standardisation Group’ aligned to OGA MER Strategy as well as the need to significantly reduce Commissioning & Decommissioning costs especially in Subsea Developments.

When Tom & James pitched up at the OGV, Maxwell Drummond Shark Tank event, I was hooked right away by the enormous global appeal of the ARC Marine Artificial Reef technology in addition to the extensive knowledge and passion of the team.  With 40,000 Concrete Mattress already protecting UKCS pipelines and classified by Environmental bodies as marine litter, which often needs to be removed, recycled, repurposed or disposed of in landfill, this is a huge environmental challenge and Decommissioning/Abandonment Cost to Operators.” 

This innovative technology addresses numerous Oil, Gas & Energy Sector drivers of Increased Safety, Environmental Impact & Carbon Footprint Reduction as well as multi-million-pound cost savings.  ARC Marine’s patented technology  can be utilised to accelerate reef creation whilst protecting pipelines or cables etc and creating a positive marine ecosystem that has the potential to be left in place thus leaving a lasting positive marine life legacy, which no other solution on the market today can address.

Feedback from Stakeholders has been extremely encouraging, especially in the Offshore Wind Sector as well as Oil & Gas. We are shortlisted for the HSE Innovation Award category at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE Aberdeen) Offshore Achievement Awards, and look forward to progressing our collaboration with OGTC and Operators considering IRM or Subsea Pipeline development projects where the prospect of leaving pipeline/cable & scour protection in place could provide significant savings and positive environmental legacy.”

The Importance of Marine Bio-diversity

In 2006, Professor Boris Worm, of Canada’s Dalhousie University reported that, unless action was taken, seafood might be gone by 2048. A dramatic statement in isolation, his peer-reviewed research also revealed that biodiversity loss is tightly linked to declining water quality, harmful algal blooms, ocean dead zones, fish kills and coastal flooding.

Speaking to the National Geographic at that time, he said: “Where we protect [marine areas] around the world – from the tropics to temperate ecosystems – we can see an increase in species diversity and productivity and sustainability and economic revenue from those ecosystems”.

At this time, Worm also led an international team of economists and scientists to examine and consider the role of biodiversity in maintaining ecosystems and the consistency of results was unquestionable; the greater the loss of diversity, the greater the impact on ecosystem services.

Offshore Operations are a necessity of industry today, and their introduction to the marine landscape presents a change that may shock an already fragile ecosystem. Systems that are rich in marine life are better equipped to manage this disruption.

A patented technology, ARC Marine’s Reef Cube®, looks at first glance, like a concrete-like breeze block, but first impressions can be deceptive. The Reef Cube® is the key to a completely different relationship with our oceans.

For hundreds of years, marine projects have disturbed marine life on the seabed and rarely considered a nature-inclusive design.  The offshore oil and gas industry has deployed many thousands of structures on the seafloor, which must often be removed at great expense.

Concrete manufacturing is one of the biggest producers of CO2 globally, second only to the iron and steel industry.  ARC Marine has developed an alternative mix, using 70-90% less energy when compared to traditional Portland-based cement, undertaking trials to determine the optimal shapes, chamber sizes, surface textures and pH values.

Based in world-class laboratory facilities in Brixham, ARC Marine can replicate any ocean, anywhere in the world, with a natural saltwater distribution system from Torbay.  Reef Cubes® is the result of 4 years of meticulous and dedicated R&D effort in collaboration with several universities and hydrodynamic test centres, and the results speak for themselves.

How Reef Cubes Work

Traditional concrete mattresses, grout bags and rock bags are often riddled with plastics that need to be recovered. Reef Cubes® provide the option to install a low CO2, non-toxic material which also protects subsea infrastructure, deliberately creating new marine habitats and substrate for sea-life to colonise.  Such structures form a natural reef resulting in a stronger case to leave them in situ without disturbing any nature gain at the end of a project. This, in turn, removes the need to recover, clean and send materials to landfill, reducing waste and saving expensive and time-intensive abandonment and decommissioning activity.

That’s not all. A typical offshore wind farm operates for 25-40 years. The associated lifetime bottom trawling closure presents the perfect opportunity to create a new marine protected area (MPA).  Deploying Reef Cubes® within the array for scour and cable protection enhances fish stocks and creates spillover benefits to fisherman outside of the protected zone. With a global UN-led drive to increase MPA areas from under 10% to over 30% of our oceans and to ensure proper enforcement to prevent illegal fishing, which does irreparable damage to natural seabed substrate, this presents a prime opportunity for the industry to contribute to oceanic regeneration.  With over 95% of mapped European oyster beds destroyed since 1890, only projects, including Reef Cubes, exist to reverse this trend.  ARC Marine and their Reef Cubes® offer a welcome and timely solution to a problem, the ramifications of which, extends far beyond the Energy Industry. 

Published: 14-02-2020

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