Chevron has joined Europe's Shell, Total and Equinor in throwing its weight behind the industrialisation of the floating wind power sector.

The supermajor is partnering with Norwegian industrial group Moreld to prototype a new design from technology developer Ocergy that is in the frame for installation in the Atlantic by 2025.

Chevron, the first US oil player to announce plans to invest in floating wind as part of a longer-term energy transition strategy, will finance its side via the $100 million Future Energy Fund (FEF) set up under its Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) arm.

'Period of rapid innovation'

Moreld, owner of a number of companies operating in the offshore wind space including contractor Global Maritime and moorings specialist Vryhof, is being underwritten by its parent company, Stavanger-headquartered energy sector capital investment house HitecVision.

“Offshore wind power is undergoing a period of rapid innovation in an effort to provide lower-carbon energy at a substantial scale,” said Barbara Burger, Chevron’s vice president of innovation and president of CTV.

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"[Chevron knows} offshore wind will play a role in the future energy system. And we know we need to get the cost down. So, we are looking at breakthrough technologies that will change the game from where we are today,” she said, speaking exclusively to Upstream's sister publication Recharge before the investment announcement.

Ocergy’s OCG-Wind concept, Burger noted, was a clear fit for FEF, which "starts with the future energy system" and "looks at the innovative technologies that are likely to play a key role".

Geir Austigard, chief executive of Moreld, which has formed engineering, procurement, construction, and installation spin-off Moreld Offshore Wind (MOW) in time with the Ocergy investment, sees the addition of floating wind to its portfolio rounding out its services offering for the coming offshore market boom.

“By adding Ocergy and offshore wind veterans to the portfolio, we will have the full set of competences, technology and execution models in-house," Austigard said.

Ocergy chief executive Dominique Roddier said: “With MOW on board, we gain a trusted partner who will be able to provide an EPCI solution for [our design], a key requirement for many of our clients."

Modularisation in the making

The design hatched by Ocergy — being headed up by Roddier, Alexia Aubault and Christian Cermelli, the team that led development of Principle Power’s pioneering WindFloat design — is a lightweight semi-submersible mainly-steel concept engineered around modularisation that would allow for the structural parts to be fabricated in working factories and shipped to port for assembly and tow-out to site.

By its calculations, a 10-megawatt unit based on the Ocergy platform concept could generate power at a levelised cost of energy (LCOE) as low as $50 per megawatt hour from “large wind farms with good wind resource and favourable environmental conditions” — an LCOE that would bring floating down to a level on par with conventional fixed-foundation offshore wind.

“To achieve acceptable LCOE levels for commercial projects, economies of scale for the current technologies is not sufficient,” said Roddier, speaking to Recharge.

“Our industrialisation plan enables the use of smaller distributed existing fabrication facilities, inherently allowing a lower cost solution by increasing competition and adding more flexibility in the use of local industries.”

“The Ocergy floating foundation is tailored to existing infrastructure, to minimise the requirement for large investments that would be detrimental to LCOE and would jeopardise project schedule.”

Along with the OCG-Wind floating platform, Ocergy has also developed a supporting environmental monitoring buoy called OCG-Data, an offshore site assessment unit that collects wind and metocean readings, and features sensor arrays to monitor underwater biodiversity as well as a bird and bat detection and identification system.

Flagship project

The Ocergy flagship is set to be moored on the site of the giant Mayflower offshore wind development off Massachusetts, US, being built by Shell-EDF joint venture Atlantic Shores, with a first 804MW targeted for switch-on by the middle of the decade.

Following testing at the site, the aim is to shift up the gears quickly for a pipeline of utility-scale arrays off Europe and the US west coast before expanding to include the emerging play off Asia.

Austigard believes Moreld’s investment “positions Ocergy as a potential leader in advancing floating wind to successfully compete for gigawatt-scale commercial projects … worldwide”.

“Our playing field [will be] global. But in the short run, [our] primary attention will be directed towards the most progressed markets for floating wind in Europe: France, Scotland, UK, Spain, Portugal ... and Norway,” said Austigard, noting that Ocergy had “a strong foothold” in US for first West Coast projects and that Asia-Pacific plays could be “next in line”.

“This decade we will see many new markets maturing,” he added.

Floating wind raising its sails

The US floating wind market remains nascent, with California revving its engine for a first commercial leasing awards LINK, and a pilot being developed off Maine by the University of Maine and industrial partners RWE and Mitsubishi-owned Diamond Offshore.

But the size of the longer-term prize floating wind can mean for the US is considered significant, with analyst group Aegir recently forecasting deep water arrays could account for as much as 25% of the total offshore plant capacity installed off the country’s shores by 2035.