Last week Recharge Magazine published an article headed ‘Should Floating Wind Embrace Big Oil?’. This is exactly the discussion going on for some time in our team and some of our clients. Both this year’s FOWT and last week’s USOW audiences represented increasing interest from O&G background, both operators and supply chain. We believe floating wind could benefit more from what is already available. Would, could and probably should. Because it is clear that things are accelerating, amongst which the closing-in of floating wind cost on that of bottom fixed. There is considerable overlap between the two and looking at both ‘technologies’ might prove a welcome alternative for some of the developments in the US north east sooner than later, for a whole set of reasons. One being that the risk might well prove to be in re-inventing the wheel.
Our team sees the positive impact of Big Oil on various levels. Generally, the Energy Companies (let’s stop calling them Oil Companies) are capable to develop large scale projects sooner than any other developer in the young floating wind industry. They are keen too. Equinor said in 2018, “we are ready for full scale development, somebody just has to ask us”.
The Energy Companies go where the resources are, not geographically, let alone politically driven and this may make countries see their Feed in Price needs be attractive in a regional perspective too.
Our Q Vision analysis shows that scale and quality of company is an essential ‘asset’ to bring a project from a probable to a viable stage. For a demonstrator by a small designer that makes sense, easily. But for a full scale project it is even more difficult. Critical even. The Energy Companies do not shy away from financing large portions if not all of capex off balance sheet. Experience is such an asset too: they know floating technology like no other with the obvious difference with floating wind projects being the size and number of units involved. That is a huge challenge logistically, one they also know how and can manage.
The next level is the supply chain. In the floating wind industry lots of stakeholders seem to prefer discussing technological challenges and explain risks rather than looking at solutions that already available. Akers Solutions’ USOW paper pointed on their 2 decades dynamic cable experience is an example. Same applies to mooring expertise and experience. Without trying to oversimplify things and deny the need for JIPs and studying on particular parts of floating wind: most of it is already there, with maybe the exception of an O&M philosophy that will prove to be a lot different, but can strongly benefit from bottom fixed experience.
The biggest risk might well be in re-inventing the wheel.
There may have been some resentment in floating wind for offshore experience based on the view that these companies are used to ‘big’ budgets. The truth is that the offshore industry supply chain had to adapt to and develop $35/barrel technology to keep their industry going so that this argument no longer stands. There is lots more on offer from offshore experience, proved technology developed over decades. Is floating wind prepared to go through that same learning curve?
Have a look at available technological alternatives and solutions and include it in the FEED scope. That’s a lesson the O&G industry learned the hard way – but a very, very long time ago.
So here we are at the point of accepting that floating wind has overlap with bottom fixed. So if we like a challenge, why not work on investigating the overlap between floating wind and offshore technology experience. And all benefit.