From the local availability of raw materials to the design of innovative solutions to anticipate maintenance problems, the Charier Group has much to offer the MRE market. The company operates throughout the Great West from its base in St Nazaire. The following is an interview with Claire Brard, Methods Manager at Charier civil engineering.
What are the fields of expertise of the Charier group?
We operate in five business areas. The first is quarries, with our production of aggregates and the storage of inert waste; our network covers the entire west coast of France. Charier is also qualified in the maritime and river areas (civil engineering, foundations, various works), with one agency in Nantes and another in Paris. We are also specialists in large-scale earthworks and also we built a part of the rear platform of the docks designed for the MRE sector of the Nantes – Saint-Nazaire port. We are developing our deconstruction and asbestos removal activity and, finally, we have a large number of roadwork projects.
What opportunities does the renewable marine energies market represent for your business?
First of all, it is an area that uses a lot of aggregates and rockfills, particularly for cable ballasting and the protection of offshore wind turbines. The advantage we have is that our raw material is only a few kilometres from the ports. Our maritime works branch also works the development of MREs, and our expertise allows us to propose packages and comprehensive solutions. Charier is also involved in clusters such as Neopolia. Specifically, we are positioning ourselves in the area of cable landing to connect the wind turbine farms to the electricity grid before they begin operation. So far nothing has been signed however, we are in contact with Tier 1 companies looking for local representatives and who have asked us to propose solutions. Finally, the development of the sector will require factories and logistics platforms that obviously we are able to build.
The MRE sector requires adaptation to unprecedented contexts. What is innovation to your company and how does this relate to the market?
Although we are an SME, R&D is in the very DNA of the company. We have numerous patents. Most of these innovations are designed to limit the footprint of the works on the environment. Thus, we use hemp in the road sub-layers to limit the use of bitumen and we are very interested in the concept of the positive energy road. We have also launched in-house innovation trophies to enhance the creative potential of each person in the company.
We wish to be part of these projects because sustainable development is our philosophy. Concerning MREs, we are developing a research project with Keops Automation and the University of Nantes to Monitor concrete subject to ocean conditions. It aims to address a problem observed in offshore wind farms already in place in Northern Europe: the junction between the foundation and the wind turbine tower cracks. So we are working to insert sensors in the concrete that will allow us to monitor the fatigue of the material. The aim is to prevent problems however, above all to anticipate maintenance operations and to avoid urgent interventions which are particularly costly, since these areas are usually subject to very difficult conditions. This solution will be commercialized byNeopolia.
The demands of the MRE actors are very specific and this is intellectually stimulating: we must constantly search for new solutions and innovative processes, while working with new partners. It is very rich, especially because we can demonstrate our know-how on many subjects, and what we invent for MREs can sometimes be used for other areas, such as the technology for monitoring concrete under ocean conditions.