arrow-right angle-down-sx angle-down-dx menu-hamburger search
Prysmian Group Marco De Donno Interview

Prysmian set to achieve a new milestone with IFA2 UK-France interconnector project

Prysmian Group EPC Project Manager Marco De Donno explains how he and his IFA2 team crossed the English Channel.

All big infrastructure projects are challenging, and IFA2 presented special difficulties. Project Director Marco De Donno explains how he and hundreds of Prysmian staff are on track to complete the job in just three years, setting a new milestone for the Group.

IFA2 UK-France interconnector to deliver secure and affordable energy supply


Prysmian is currently on time to complete the submarine power cables installation along a 200 km route beneath the English Channel, setting a new milestone for the Group, said Marco De Donno, Project Director in charge of the IFA2 interconnector project. 
This is the first time such a complicated infrastructure project is completed in three years, and it could be a new milestone for us and the entire industry,” said De Donno
Marco and his Deputy Cian McKeown are wrapping up the turn-key design, manufacture and installation of the 1 GW submarine and land power cable link between Normandy, France and Hampshire, UK for clients RTE of France and the UK’s National Grid. 

Which are the key features of the project?

The IFA2 project is headed towards the final stages: the manufacturing phase of over 500 km of cables and accessories has been successfully completed, and most of the marine and land cables have been installed and the last offshore laying campaign will be finalized in two months. The progress is described by the Schedule Performance Index of the project, that clearly indicates that Prysmian is running ahead of schedule. But the development of the project has not been always so smooth,” said Marco.

One of the key success factors to delivering such a complex project in less time than usual is to have the right team. The IFA2 project is also the success story of hundreds of employees coming from different nationalities working in factories, vessels, laboratories and in the field. This is the key factor for the successful progress of the IFA2 project.” concluded Marco.

Prysmian, with its high manufacturing capacity, is able to deliver turn-key projects that enable energy to flow between different networks in different countries. These interconnectors are important for three reasons.  Firstly, they ensure safe and secure energy supplies, mitigating the risk that a network fails due to damage or malfunction. Secondly, they guarantee energy that is more affordable, bringing power from cheaper markets to more expensive ones. 
That’s why the European Union refers to interconnectors as “electricity highways,” and funds them with the goal of creating a single energy market. The EU has included IFA2 on its list of PCIs, or “projects of common interest”.  

Lastly, interconnectors make sustainable energy more viable by giving producers the ability to offset the unpredictability of renewable energy sources (like wind and solar), providing countries with the ability to exchange power ensuring a safe, secure and affordable energy supply. Traditionally, energy networks were designed to distribute the stable outputs of certain number of coal-fired, methane or nuclear power plants. The birth of wind and solar centers has changed this geography and created a need to shift energy around
Any big infrastructure project is challenging, and IFA2 presented its own unique set of difficulties to be solved. 
Firstly, laying cable on the seabed of the English Channel meant crossing one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Plus, the work plan had to meet the multipurpose needs of different stakeholders, such as institutions, governments, authorities, and also local communities.
Our project team had to take account of many environmental and project stakeholders including wintering birds and fishermen’s associations to mention a few. Interfacing and protecting such delicate topics like these added complexity throughout the delivery of the project. The planning of permits and Licencing was a crucial topic on the agenda of each project meeting,” explained De Donno.

Which are the most important benefits of this project?

Installation along the 200-kilometer of route in the Channel has been planned in four different campaigns by Prysmian’s cable-laying vessel Cable Enterprise. For approximately half of that length, the sea bed was jettable and the cable was buried by a high-pressure jet of water from Prysmian’s Sea Mole jetting tool. For remaining rocky sections, Prysmian relied on other special trenching equipment.

Secondly, the converter station in the UK is near the Solent Airport in Hampshire, which meant the cable had to cross the airfield, creating a set of logistical considerations and requiring special planning. Height restrictions at the landfall interface with the runway limited cranes & jack up barges, to say the least.

The project also called for Prysmian to install HVAC cables for an approximately ten-kilometer route in the UK, linking two substations on the coast with an offshore cable. This area called for special attention to protect the environment of wildlife including badgers, dormice and birds.

HSE behaviors, quality performance, and project management standards had to reach the highest level on the market to meet our client’s expectations.” said Marco.

Which were the main challenges that you faced during the production of the IFA 2 project cable?

The offshore installation team had a very challenging task to plan and coordinate several installation vessels plus over 20 additional support vessels at certain periods of the project. Thanks to the planning and safety controls put in place by the offshore project team during the planning and execution, Prysmian was able to shave weeks from the timetable. Normally a project like this can take up to four or five years to complete, with the installation vessels staggered out over time.

Another reason to be proud of this strong performance is that the younger team members were able to gain experience and development throughout the IFA2 project.

The success of the IFA2 project is in managing all the activities simultaneously with a close involvement of our Client, subcontractors and all the local stakeholders. IFA2 can be definitively considered one of the milestones and iconic projects of the Group.” concluded Marco.

Project numbers:


Length of cables manufactured for the project


Submarine and Land Power Cable Link


Number of ships involved in the project


Value of the contract awarded to Prysmian