IX challenge: Marine Unexploded Ordinance removal for offshore wind farms

The iX programme, delivered by the KTN and supported by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, is working alongside Hartley Anderson to identify innovative solutions to marine unexploded ordinance (UXO) clearance. Hartley Anderson, under a contract from BEIS, is looking for solutions that can increase safety, reduce impact on marine mammals and reduce the time taken to remove UXOs from the seabed.

Opportunity Details


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Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the Challenger. The package may also include demonstration space, work with BEIS, support, presenting at events, investor introductions, business collaboration and/or funding application support.

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Hartley Anderson is one of the UK’s leading independent environmental consultancies. They support regulators, offshore industries and conservation bodies. Notably, it is contracted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to deliver Strategic Environmental Assessments for aspects of the UK’s marine energy plans and programmes.

There are millions of tonnes of unexploded ordnance UXOs in the seas around the UK and in particular the North and Baltic seas, much from the two World Wars. It was an established practice for many years, for marine industries with a small or linear footprint (e.g. Oil and Gas, Marine cable laying) to detect and then avoid UXOs in developments of the seabed. UXO clearance activities come with a financial cost, potential harm to offshore workers and can cause injury or mortality to marine life such as diving birds and marine mammals.

The offshore wind industry is growing at a rapid rate, with the UK leading the global market by installed capacity (10.46 GW across 40 sites), with ambitious targets set for over 40GW of capacity by 2030. Sites are getting larger and require greater areas of seabed. For example, Dogger Bank Offshore Wind Farm in the North Sea is currently under development and will cover a seabed area of 1,114km2. UXO detection and clearance must happen at the beginning of site development and is a time consuming and costly activity.

Detection is typically undertaken as part of geophysical surveys of the site using survey vessels with magnetometers in tow. Maps are constructed of potential UXO locations, which then form the basis of remediation campaigns. Campaigns may involve vessels of various types, and use methods that neutralise the UXO through a controlled explosion (high order detonation) or through low order techniques like deflagration through plasma injection, or water jet disruption. These low order techniques render the explosive safe but typically without causing the UXO to explode.

UXO removal campaigns need to be well planned and come under much scrutiny from regulators and conservation bodies due to the potential environmental, health and safety risks.

Solutions are sought by BEIS, offshore wind developers and others that can either:

  • Neutralise the UXO in a better, safer and cheaper way than current methods achieve; or
  • Reduce the impact on marine fauna and the wider environment of currently used methods.

Whilst not limiting the technologies from solution providers, it is expected that solutions would consider innovations from some of the following areas:

  • Onshore UXO or IED removal
  • Defence
  • Oil and gas
  • Infrastructure
  • Chemistry
  • Materials sciences
  • Lasers and sensing
  • Construction

Rewards & Benefits

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the Challenger.

The package may also include:

  • Demonstration space at a flooded quarry with explosive test devices
  • A copy of any final reports to BEIS, documenting the underwater sound characteristics of the solution demonstrated
  • Support from KTN
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot
  • Technical support
  • Invitation to attend or present at KTN events
  • A potential business collaboration
  • Investor introductions (if investment is required)
  • Support if any InnovateUK or similar competitions are relevant

Proposed solutions should meet the following criteria:

  • To reduce harm to the environment through the release of chemicals or materials (e.g. toxic) as a result of clearance of the UXO. All solutions must be consistent with the OSPAR convention.
  • Significantly reduce the sound output of a detonation.
  • Abide by established subsea and marine standards.

Operating Conditions

Solutions should be ready for use in the following conditions:

  • North, Atlantic or Baltic Sea
  • A minimum design temperature -15 ºC
  • A maximum water depth of 250m

Deployment Timescale

Solutions should be fully deployable for prototype testing within 12 months of competition win and fully deployable commercially within 1.5-2 years. Critical dates are as follows:

  • Launch of the Competition: 31/01/22
  • Deadline for applications: 18/03/22
  • Selection and notification of finalists: 01/04/22
  • Date of Pitch day: TBC, roughly one week after 01/04/22

Cost Requirement & Market Opportunity

The market opportunity is to reduce the time taken to deliver offshore campaigns for UXO removal, having a knock-on effect of reducing wind farm development timelines. The cost associated with this is site-specific by its nature and in most cases runs to six or seven figures.

Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, startups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base

Applications from universities are welcome but there must be a clear route to commercialisation demonstrated, meeting the timeframes demanded by the challenge.


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