Norwegian contractor Aker Solutions is working with Chinese offshore operator CNOOC Ltd on a study linked to a floating wind power project that could be set to electrify the Wenchang oilfield complex in the South China Sea's Beibu Gulf.


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Some industry observers have, however, cast doubt on the chances of the study maturing into a full engineering, procurement and construction deal for Aker Solutions as it would incorporate technology developed by a US company.

The study is based on a floating foundation for offshore wind turbines, known as WindFloat technology, developed by Principle Power Incorporated (PPI).

US sanctions moves

The US has tightened some regulations governing some export technologies.

Late last year, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury added CNOOC Ltd to the list of Chinese companies with alleged ties to the country's military.

The New York Stock Exchange followed up this decision with a move to delist the American depositary shares of the Chinese operator.

“The project is difficult to move ahead,” said one official familiar with the matter, adding the first draft of the report was completed late last year.

In 2018, Aker Solutions purchased a 11.8% stake in PPI. This stake is understood to have been transferred to spin-off Aker Offshore Wind, in which Aker Solutions' renewable energy investment platform, Aker Horizons, has a majority stake.

PPI's website identifies Aker Offshore Wind as a stakeholder.

The investment in PPI was made to bring Aker Solutions' offshore oil and gas engineering expertise into the renewables sector and to help open up WindFloat technology to a broader market.

PPI’s WindFloat foundation allows wind turbines to be placed at offshore sites with some of the most abundant wind resources, irrespective of water depths, it developers claim.

Installation, operation and maintenance of the WindFloat foundation lowers the risks, costs and environmental impact compared with competing technology, they claim.

Would-be workscope

Assuming the project moves ahead, Aker Solutions is poised to supply a semi-submersible floating wind platform with 6.25 megawatt capacity turbines to be provided by Shanghai Electric.

According to the study, the unit will be deployed 130 kilometres south of Yangjiang city and Aker Solutions will offer services such as load-out, sea-fastening, transportation and installation of the foundations and topsides.

The project is intended to provide electricity for the Wenchang platforms’ topsides by connecting the production facility to the floating turbine.

Well-informed sources said that Wenchang’s power utilities face a lack of gas supply to fuel the engines and CNOOC Ltd is keen to supplement the power supply via offshore wind as part of its effort to reduce carbon emissions.

The Wenchang oil complex comprises two wellhead platforms — Wenchang 13-1 and Wenchang 13-2. CNOOC Ltd has just completed refitting the two unmanned platforms into manned facilities for safety purposes.

Oil is produced from the Nanhai Fenjing floating production, storage and offloading vessel, from where crude is shipped to an onshore terminal by shuttle tankers.

A spokesperson for CNOOC Ltd said the company had no comment on the matter. Aker Solutions did not respond to a request for comment by the time Upstream went to press.

(This article has been updated to include a response from CNOOC Ltd.)