Scotland kept up its momentum as a global offshore wind hotspot with confirmation it hopes to open bidding in June for multi-gigawatts of development opportunities linked to the decarbonisation of North Sea oil and gas.

Seabed landlord the Crown Estate Scotland said its Innovation and Targeted Oil & Gas Decarbonisation (Intog) seabed leasing round will aim to spur up to 4 gigawatts of offshore wind to power existing fossil fuel assets, and a further 500 megawatts in a separate ‘pot’ of sub-100MW developments linked to areas such as green hydrogen.

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Crown Estate Scotland said a total of 5.7GW of lease options could actually be awarded to account for potential project attrition.

Publication of detailed plans for Intog, which is expected to favour floating projects, comes just weeks after Scotland made headlines globally with its ScotWind leasing round that awarded seabed to support up to 25GW of fixed and floating capacity off the devolved UK nation.

Like ScotWind, Intog — which was first mooted by the Crown Estate Scotland in 2021 — will be assessed via a combination of price and quality tests and require applicants to set out supply chain proposals for planned projects.

That won applause from industry body Scottish Renewables, whose senior policy manager Ben Miller said: “We welcome the alignment with the ScotWind Leasing process in terms of supply chain, which should enable strong collaboration between projects to invest and support Scottish suppliers and urge the Scottish Government to ensure resources are in place across key bodies to deliver on this ambition.”

Miller added: “This announcement adds further momentum to the offshore wind sector in Scotland, and increases again the size of the supply chain opportunity ahead. Renewable energy must become the backbone of the net-zero emissions economy, so it’s encouraging to see that brownfield site decarbonisation will be prioritised in this process.”

Achieving a ‘just transition’ that decarbonises Scotland’s huge oil and gas infrastructure while simultaneously developing a renewables supply chain has become a tricky balancing act for the Scottish and UK governments. With fossil-fuelled power generation accounting for some two-thirds of oil and gas production emissions, linking offshore wind to oil and gas assets is seen as a win-win for both.

Several pioneering projects that aim to use floating wind to decarbonise oil and gas operations off Europe have already been launched, including the industry-leading 88MW Hywind Tampen, now under development, which will use an array of 11 spar-based turbines to cut emissions from Equinor’s Snorre-Gullfaks complex off Norway.

Developer Cerulean Wind – started-up by a pair of former petroleum executives – is advancing a scheme to use 3GW of floating wind off Scotland to decarbonise more than half the emissions being produced by oil and gas operations in the central and northern UK North Sea.

Colin Palmer, director of marine for Crown Estate Scotland, said: “This leasing is about creating an opportunity for enhanced roll out of offshore wind technology in Scottish waters. Whilst we recognise it will be for industry and government to take the key steps needed on oil and gas transition, we believe this will provide a step towards progressing that transition to net zero.”

(This article was first published by Upstream's renewable energy sister publication, Recharge, on 22 February, 2022.)