Integrated Drive Technology from Siemens Contributes to Global First for Sparrows Group

  • Siemens’ single source supply results in optimised drive system for Sparrows’ largest tensioner to date
  • End-to-end horizontal integration with global support brings major benefits

When Sparrows Group’s cable and pipe lay division (previously Baricon), needed to construct its largest ever tensioner, it called on its longstanding partners Siemens and HMK to help solve the challenge.

Biggest tensioner ever made by Sparrows

The result was a 50-tonne tensioner, incorporating Siemens integrated drive technology for maximum efficiency, performance and reliability.  This electric caterpillar-based tensioner (four-track) is already being deployed for pipeline laying and lifting operations in the North Sea, as it operates from either ship or shore.  

Sparrows tensioners are used worldwide in the most challenging locations, such as for laying or lifting offshore oil and gas industry pipelines and cables.  They play a vital role, maintaining tension but also preventing it being carried back to the shipboard carousel.  Sparrows already had an established relationship with Siemens and technology partner HMK, who had worked with Sparrows‘ in-house electrical and PLC engineers on several successful projects in the past, although this was the first time Sparrows opted to use Siemens‘ integrated drive systems (IDS) to maximise system performance and realise several other benefits.

Sparrows manufactures a range of bespoke and standard products in tensioners, carousels, reel drives, under-rollers and associated power and control systems for subsea pipe and cable-laying industries.  This particular tensioner was the largest electric machine manufactured to date by the specialists in lifting and handling, cable and pipe laying, and fluid power solutions, which established its name working for over 40 years in the UK’s North Sea oilfields. 

Siemens partner HMK played a key role in the project, working closely with Sparrows engineers throughout the design and build process.  HMK’s scope included the sizing and specification of Sinamics S120 hardware, Siemens motors, braking resistors and planetary gearboxes.  HMK’s design and build of the electrical panels incorporated Siemens‘ S7-1500 PLC, and Siemens‘ LV and DNV-approved 400 kVA isolation transformer.  A software ‘motion core‘ for the tensioner drive control included speed, haul and render modes.  The Sinamics bookcase motor module was used as a braking chopper and the panel was designed to DNV standards.  The modular Siemens PLC software now provides a common platform for Sparrows tensioners.  All items were commissioned at Sparrows‘ Aberdeen site. 

Pushing the boundaries

Paul Stuart, Electrical Technical Authority at Sparrows, commented on the success of this project, saying: “By engineering offshore lifting systems which are exceptionally high-performing, and combining that performance with excellent reliability thanks to the integrated components we use from Siemens through HMK, we have been able to expand the boundaries in world-leading tensioner technology.  The Siemens solution gives us horizontal, vertical and lifecycle integration and it is certainly the way forward for global operators such as ourselves.“

Sparrows tensioners have been expanded with this latest development to offer capacities spanning 1.5 to 50 tonnes, almost any diameter cable or pipe (flexible or rigid), and with variable speed ranges and grip force to suit specific requirements.  They can be designed for vertical or horizontal operation and with 2, 3 or 4-track systems, with load monitoring and remote control units, using Siemens Simatic S7 PLCs, Sinamics S120 drives and a range of Siemens AC motors.

Established expertise

Siemens has long-established expertise in electric motors and control systems.  Integrating motors, drives and control equipment into a complete system has enabled Sparrows to carry out larger capacity lifting  and thereby gain significant advantages in its marketplace – as well as help its end users enjoy long-term enhanced performance and operational stability.  By adopting IDS for this project, Sparrows was able to benefit in a number of ways:

  • a drive system designed to Sparrows‘ individual requirements
  • the complete end-to-end system solution
  • continuity throughout the course of the project
  • enhanced control technology with all components working seamlessly together
  • holistic approach addressing operational and energy efficiency
  • Global support and local service back-up

As Siemens‘ partner development manager Ronnie Snedden confirmed: “This partnership has enabled Sparrows to make great strides forward in terms of capacity, efficiency, safety and reliability on this vital equipment for onshore and offshore use.  Having a single point of component supply plus a high level of integration provides significant added benefits.“

The tensioner has already been successfully utilised on flexible riser and flowline lifting and laying projects in the Dumbarton Field, around 220 km north east of Aberdeen. 

See more about Siemens integrated drive systems at 

See more on Sparrows tensioners at


PHOTO-CAPTION: The new 50-tonne tensioner by Sparrows Group contains seamless Siemens and HMK technology

For more information and photos please contact Bridget Summers on 01723 447424, email or Paul Addison on 07808 823011, email

About Siemens

Siemens is a global technology powerhouse that stands for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality. The company is active in more than 200 countries, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalisation. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is No. 1 in offshore wind turbine construction, a leading supplier of combined cycle turbines for power generation, a leading provider of power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions and automation and software solutions for industry. The company is also a leading supplier of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2013, which ended on September 30, 2013, revenue from continuing operations totalled €75.9 billion and income from continuing operations €4.2 billion. Siemens has around 362,000 employees worldwide on the basis of continuing operations. Further information is available on the Internet at