Norwegian energy company Equinor last week floated the possibility that it would begin exploring the introduction of floating offshore wind and electrification as a means to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its offshore oil facilities.
Though Equinor is a multinational oil and gas company, the company has also been making headlines recently as it begins the transition toward low-carbon energy generation such as wind and solar. The company’s transition is in part behind its recent decision to rename the company from Statoil. Completed in May, company chair of the board Jon Erik Reinhardsen explained the company’s name change saying that “The biggest transition our modern-day energy systems have ever seen is underway, and we aim to be at the forefront of this development. Our strategy remains firm. The name Equinor reflects ongoing changes and supports the always safe, high value and low carbon strategy we outlined last year.”
Toward the end of August, Equinor announced another small step in its transition to low-carbon efforts, revealing that it intends to explore the possibility of installing floating offshore wind at its Gullfaks and Snorre oil and gas fields on the Norwegian continental shelf in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — a first-of-its-kind project to supply the oil and gas industry with electricity. The move builds on Equinor’s involvement in the world’s first floating wind farm, the 30 megawatt (MW) Hywind Scotland, built off the coast of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which began generating electricity in October of 2017 and which saw the installation of the world’s first battery for an offshore wind farm earlier this year.
The plans are part of the company’s intention to transform its work on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) for what it describes as “continued high value creation and low emissions for the coming decades.”
“Over the past years we have set ourselves tough targets on the NCS,” explained Arne Sigve Nylund, executive vice president for Development and Production Norway. “This has paid off. We have improved operational efficiency, increased production, reduced CO2 emissions and matured a highly profitable project portfolio. This is the result of good dialogue with the authorities and good collaboration with our suppliers and employees. The NCS still holds a lot of potential, however securing value creation and thousands of jobs for the decades to come is not an easy task. The changes needed will be bigger than ever before and are necessary as we continue to develop as a broad energy company.”
While the specifics are scarce and essentially underscore the company’s plans to further explore the oil and gas properties of the NCS, Equinor’s plan is to use floating offshore wind farms to provide clean renewable electricity to its Gullfaks and Snorre fields. The proposed plan is forecast to reduce CO2 emissions by over 200,000 tonnes per year — equivalent to the emissions from 100,000 cars — based on a 88 MW wind farm made up of 11 8 MW wind turbines named Hywind Tampen, which would aim to meet 35% of the annual power demand of the five Snorre A and B, and Gullfaks A, B, and C platforms.
The move would work in partnership with the company’s aims to remove every fourth gas turbine on the NCS platforms through energy efficiency and electrification over the coming years.
“Reducing the use of gas turbines by supplying platforms with power from floating offshore wind is a challenging and innovative project,” said Equinor’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions, Pål Eitrheim. “It may also facilitate new industrial opportunities for Norway, Equinor and Norwegian supply industry within profitable renewable energy, while enabling oil and gas production with low CO2 emissions. The Hywind Tampen project is contributing to further developing floating offshore wind technology, reducing costs and making the solutions more competitive.”
More specifically, according to an Equinor media representative, through a range of initiatives headlined by the company’s climate road map — including powering more oil and gas installations from shore, offshore wind generation, and around 300 energy efficiency initiatives aimed at reducing the need for running all their existing natural gas turbines — Equinor estimates that “approximately 25% of our gas turbines today will either be replaced/less used, or removed following decommissioning towards 2040.”
The Hywind Tampen project is projected to cost approximately NOK 5 billion ($594 million), but already the industry’s NOx fund has committed NOK 566 million in investment support for the project, while Norwegian authorities have opened up financial support through its offshore wind strategy and Enova SF for such projects as this.
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