Oil companies position for emerging offshore wind sector


Oil and gas operators are positioning for potential growth in US offshore wind projects.

While 88% or 14.4 GW of the global installed capacity is offshore Europe, the US could generate more than 2,000 GW of offshore wind power, Stephanie McClellan with the University of Delaware said at Renewable Energy World’s inaugural Offshore Wind Executive Summit (OWES) in Houston.

McClellan pointed to the first operational US offshore wind farm – Block Island Wind Farm in 2016 – and rapidly declining costs as possible catalysts for more projects in the US. Meanwhile, Europe has witnessed strong growth in projects over the last five years, from 4.1 GW in 2011 to 14.4 GW of installed capacity in 2016.

Two European operators with deep roots in offshore oil and gas operations are actively investing in this renewable trend. Statoil recently made a strategic shift in its portfolio by separating its renewable energy business into a standalone unit, New Energy Solutions (NES). Its mandate is to focus on offshore wind, solar, and energy storage.

The operator is also working to reduce the carbon footprint of its core oil and gas business with the development of technologies for CO2 storage and injection for IOR.

Statoil is leveraging its experience in offshore oil and gas operations to advance its NES business, explained Meagan Keiser, Lead Counsel, Statoil, at OWES. This includes managing complex projects in harsh environments, applying technology to reduce costs, and leveraging its global presence and supply chain, financial strength, and safety and sustainability record, she said.      

Another European operator with a background in oil and gas, DONG, is taking a different investment approach. The operator has shed its offshore oil and gas assets during the past 10 years to focus almost exclusively on wind power. It now holds the greatest market share (29%) of global installed offshore wind capacity. The operator’s experience in offshore oil and gas development has been a key enabler of its transformation, said Thomas Brostrøm, President, North America, Wind Power, DONG Energy, at OWES. There a number of synergies between offshore oil and gas and wind operations, including logistics services, operating in harsh environments, and HSE, he said.

Both Keiser and Brostrøm agreed that a key difference between offshore oil and gas and wind operations is volume. Offshore wind projects commonly require multiple installations.