Aluminium has considerable potential for increased use in marine environments, according to prominent technical and material experts.
"Aluminium is well suited for application in the offshore industry. It does not rust, requires little maintenance and weighs only a third of steel," says Magnus Langseth, professor of aluminium structures at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.
Langseth was one of the speakers at the "Aluminium At Sea" seminar, recently arranged by Hydro at the company's head office in Oslo. The seminar brought together about 90 representatives from industry and Norwegian research institutions for information about aluminium use in the marine environment.
"There is a sea of possibilities, limited only by imagination. Our aim was to gather key groups to look at and consider the possibilities," says Atle Larsen, sales manager for Hydro's extrusion unit in Norway, Hydro Aluminium Profiler.
The unit served as host of the seminar.
Expertise must be strengthened
The seminar offered technical lectures as well as customer presentations of current applications.
Research Director Jon Sandvik in SINTEF Raufoss Manufacturing pointed out that one of the reasons why aluminium has not been used more in the marine environment is fear of the metal's properties in case of fire. He explains, however, that the challenge is no greater for aluminium than for steel.
"There is basically no difference between steel and aluminum when it comes to fire. By coating the metals with a fire-retardant material, one can achieve the same positive properties of both metals," says Sandvik.
Hans Erik Vatne, Hydro's head of Technology, says he finds it a paradox that aluminium is not used more frequently in offshore applications.
"Norway is a world leader in aluminium production, and a world leader in marine technology in the areas of oil and gas, ship-building and fish farming," says Vatne. "But offshore use of aluminium is modest, despite the fact that the metal has a number of advantages over the more traditional construction materials, like steel."
He says that in order to increase the utilization of aluminium offshore, it is necessary to increase the information about possible uses of the light metal - and that some myths need to be put to sleep.
"The competence level regarding aluminium in marine applications is too low in many places, unfortunately," says Vatne. "Holding this seminar is one of the ways we can raise the level."
Important for Alustar
The company Alustar, based in Sola, Norway, delivers aluminium scaffolding and presented its applications and future prospects during the seminar. Board chairman Martin Husebø says the light metal has contributed to the substantial growth in Alustar's deliveries to offshore environments both in and outside Norway.
"We replaced steel with aluminium on the Ekofisk field in 1993. Since then, we have developed our products exclusively in aluminium, in close cooperation with Hydro," he says.
"In addition to its more notable features, the flexibility of aluminium is important to us. Our profile-based solutions are built like Lego blocks."