Equinor considering offshore floating wind farm to power oil and gas platforms

Norwegian energy company Equinor has revealed that it is investigating the possibility of building a floating offshore wind farm to power two of its oilfields in the North Sea, in a move it claims would be the first of its kind in the oil and gas industry.

If constructed, the 11-turbine wind farm could reduce Equinor's carbon footprint by 200,000 tonnes annually

If constructed, the 11-turbine wind farm could reduce Equinor's carbon footprint by 200,000 tonnes annually

The company, formerly known as Statoil, is considering building an 11-turbine floating windfarm between its oilfields at Gullfaks and Snorre in Tampen, off the west coast of Norway. It is estimated that the move could reduce the oilfields’ carbon emissions by 200,000 tonnes per year.

If constructed, the windfarm will have a capacity of 88MW and be able to meet around 35% of the annual power demand of both facilities, Equinor said in a statement.

The proposed windfarm follows the principles of the energy firm’s floating offshore wind concept, called Hywind, which differs from conventional offshore wind farms as it uses turbines attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system. The turbines are interconnected by cables which export power to a nearby battery storage facility. 

“Reducing the use of gas turbines by supplying platforms with power from floating offshore wind is a challenging and innovative project,” Equinor’s vice president for new energy solutions, Pål Eitrheim, said

“It may also facilitate new industrial opportunities for Norway, Equinor and the Norwegian supply industry within profitable renewable energy, while enabling oil and gas production with low CO2 emissions.”

Equinor has installed Hywind technology at numerous locations since the first wind farm using the concept came online in Scotland last year, but claims that the proposed facility would mark the first time that an offshore wind farm is directly connected to oil and gas platforms.

A decision on whether Equinor and its partners will invest the £470m (5bn NOK) needed to construct the wind farm is expected to be made in 2019. The energy firm has applied for funding from the Norwegian Government’s Enova scheme, which finances full-scale innovative energy schemes, to support the project.

All at sea

The announcement from Equinor comes just months after the company opened the world’s first floating wind farm near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. The 30MW facility, which opened last September, is set to generate around 135GWh of renewable electricity annually – enough to power 20,000 Scottish households.

With up to 80% of potential offshore wind resource located in deep waters unsuitable for traditional bottom-fixed installations, Equinor believes that floating offshore wind will follow a similar downward cost trajectory of traditional offshore wind projects.

The company is aiming to make Hywind the “most cost-competitive” renewable energy concept by 2030 and believes that the cost of energy generated by the technology will reach around €40-€60 per MWh by this deadline. In comparison, the lowest price per MWh set by offshore wind projects to date is £57.50 (€63.42) – a figure recorded in the latest Contract for Difference (CfD) auction.

With up to 80% of potential offshore wind resource located in deep waters unsuitable for traditional bottom-fixed installations, Equinor believes that floating offshore wind will follow a similar downward cost trajectory of traditional offshore wind projects.

The company is aiming to make Hywind the “most cost-competitive” renewable energy concept by 2030 and believes that the cost of energy generated by the technology will reach around €40-€60 per MWh by this deadline. In comparison, the lowest price per MWh set by offshore wind projects to date is £57.50 (€63.42) – a figure recorded in the latest Contract for Difference (CfD) auction.

Sarah George


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