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Are they drilling for oil in Whitstable?

The vessel sat just outside Whitstable harbour that is laying cables for the wind farm

by Sian Napier

snapier@thekmgroup.co.uk

Deep Diver, the vessel which has been surveying the seabed off Whitstable this summer, has been back for a few days this week for more investigations.

While rumours spread of someone drilling for oil, the work was really part of European energy company Vattenfall’s plans to extend the Kentish Flats offshore wind farm.

Investigative work has been going on since August and is needed to find out the character of ground conditions below the seabed for the preliminary design of the foundations and cable burial.

Vattenfall's Jason Ormiston said the work was part of the company's technical survey, with Deep Diver drilling for mud cores from the seabed.

"The extension project will involve a detailed planning application and work such as this survey is needed to understand the seabed so that if or when we get permission to build the extra turbines we shall know what the conditions are like," Mr Ormiston said.

"Cores from the seabed will be sent to specialists to analyse and produce information for work on designing the foundations and cables which will run between the turbines and from them to the shore.

"It is a major engineering excercise."

Goran Loman, project manager for Vattenfall's proposal to extend Kentish Flats, said: "About two-thirds of the geotechnical survey has been completed and Fugro Seacore's Deep Diver is ready to complete surveys off Whitstable.

"Weather permitting we hope that the surveys will be completed during November following which there will be a careful analysis of ground conditions below the seabed essential for the preliminary design of the foundations and cable burial."

Vattenfall hopes to add up to 17 turbines to the existing 30 which are 5.5 miles offshore between Whitstable and Herne Bay.

If approved, the extended windfarm would stretch south and west and be completed by 2014.

Vattenfall says the Kentish Flats wind farm would be expected to generate enough green electricity every year to meet the total annual electricity needs of between 82,000 and 96,000 households.

Concerns have been raised that the new turbines would be closer to shore and potentially disrupt commercial fishing.

For more information on Kentish Flats Extension, see Vattenfall's website.

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