Financial reprieve for Beatrice jacket firm

UK: Companies behind the 588MW Beatrice project have agreed a financial package to prevent foundation specialist Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) from going into administration.

Steel being cut at BiFab before being turned into foundation piles (pic credit: Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd)

Project owner SSE, offshore contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting, and BiFab’s majority shareholders, JCE Group, will provide the cash-strapped jacket-manufacturer with cash payments to alleviate immediate cash flow issues.

The Scottish government, which gave the project the go-ahead in March 2014, added if necessary, it would make a commercial loan facility available to BiFab.

The fabricator had issued a notice of its intention to appoint administrators last week, citing a "critical cash position" due to a "challenging situation regarding its on-going contracts", but gave no further details.

It had been contracted to provide jacket foundations for 26 of the project’s 84 wind turbines, and two jackets and piles for the offshore transformer module.

According to a list of projects on BiFab’s website, it has no other outstanding contracts across its renewables, oil and gas or facilities divisions.

The financial package enables the threat of administration to be temporarily lifted and "ensures the full funding of the Beatrice contract", the Scottish government stated.

Scottish ministers held negotiations with Beatrice project partners and the Unite and GMB unions last week to secure the agreement.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "All companies including BiFab have had to take difficult decisions to secure this outcome.

"While this deal lifts the immediate threat of administration, we recognise that there is a lot of work still to do to secure the long term position."

The Scottish government initially approved 1,866MW of offshore wind capacity in the outer Moray Firth in 2014. This capacity was to comprise three projects planned by Moray Offshore Renewables and SSE's Beatrice project, then planned to be 750MW.

The Beatrice site is now set to comprise 84 of Siemens Gamesa’s SWT-7.0-154 turbines for a total capacity of 588MW.

The first of the project’s 86 jacket foundations was installed in August, and the wind farm is due to be completed in 2019.

Scottish ministers remain in close discussion with BiFab regarding longer-term prospects for the company and the prospect of future contracts, the government stated.