GeoProvider prepares unexploded ordnance (UXO) reports, de-risking offshore wind projects both financially and environmentally. “Knowledge is power when it comes to unexploded munitions,” says John Bednarski, Senior Historian at GeoProvider.
World Wars I and II are not over yet – at least not for offshore wind projects that encounter UXO in the ocean.
“The greatest threats come from legacy munitions used in the World Wars. Some 20 to 30 per cent of munitions fired failed to detonate,” explains Bednarski. Later, munitions were discarded in the oceans, a practice that did not end until 1972 under an international convention.
“Developers need to be proactive and explore the likelihood of UXO on site,” says Bednarski.
GeoProvider prepares desktop research and risk analysis reports for offshore wind power generation. The reports give an overview of the type and level of UXO risks at any given site.
“Developers won’t go into a project blind. They can use the data to inform a comprehensive risk management strategy,” explains Bednarski.
GeoProvider sets a multidisciplinary team on the task. Experts in geology, chemistry, the marine environment, history and linguistics collect and interpret data from various sources.
As there is no centralised UXO database, the data is found worldwide, siloed in national archives, museums, government records, private companies, enthusiast groups and the like. Most of it is not digitised.
To illustrate the challenge, Bednarski explains: “Since the largest UXO threat is historical in nature, researchers must understand the military jargon of the times, including colloquial terms found in the local language. They may also need to translate older cartography into modern geographical datasets.”
By de-risking offshore wind farms, a UXO report reduces the early-stage costs of offshore wind development. Developers can use the report to decide whether, or how much, to bid on an offshore lease. Once a site is acquired, the report provides crucial information to optimise planning and construction.
“We state the likelihood of encountering UXO in an offshore wind area. This is an improvement over a magnetometer, for example, which can’t tell the difference between a depth charge and a refrigerator,” says Bednarski.
All threats need to be inspected and, if found to pose a risk, may need to be removed or detonated before construction begins or continues. This causes slowdowns and necessitates hiring of an explosive ordnance disposal company, which cost far more than a UXO report.
In addition, a UXO report may save human life by reducing the risk of serious accidents. Marine life is protected as well by reducing underwater explosions, debris and release of toxic chemicals.
Very few regions in the world are not contaminated with UXO, at various levels. As more sites around the world are opened up for offshore wind, the likelihood of these areas containing UXO hazards increases as well.
As such, GeoProvider’s market spans the globe. “Many potential offshore wind sites have UXO pollution. This includes the US Great Lakes and coastal regions of North America, as well as the Baltic Sea and Skagerrak strait,” explains Bednarski.
From the data collected over time, GeoProvider is building a global database of UXO threats. “Only a few companies do UXO research worldwide, especially at our level,” he concludes.