Shell plans to develop floating offshore wind farm in South Korea

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If built, the project would be in waters off the coast of Ulsan, South Korea.

Insung Jeon | Moment | Getty Images

A joint venture to develop a huge floating offshore wind farm in waters off South Korea was officially established.

The oil and gas company Shell holds 80% of the shares in the MunmuBaram joint venture, the remaining 20% ​​are held by CoensHexicon. The latter is itself a joint venture between South Korea-based COENS and the Swedish company Hexicon.

In a statement earlier this week, Shell said the project was in a feasibility assessment phase. If built, the 1.4 gigawatt wind farm would be between 65 and 80 kilometers from Ulsan, a coastal city and industrial center in the south-east of the country.

The water depths for the planned system, which is to be developed in phases, are between 120 and 160 meters. It is expected to produce up to 4.65 terawatt hours of energy annually and power over 1 million households.

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“Shell sees offshore wind power as a key part of a net-zero energy system, both in South Korea and around the world,” said Joe Nai, Shell’s general manager Offshore Wind Asia, on Wednesday.

The MunmuBaram company is formally founded as the authorities in South Korea aim to be CO2 neutral by 2050. The country wants the share of renewable energies in electricity generation to reach 20% in 2030, compared to 7.6% in 2017, and wants to develop 12 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030.

Main actors

Shell isn’t the only large company involved in projects focused on floating offshore wind power. Last month it was announced that RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power have signed an agreement in which the two companies will examine the feasibility of a large floating offshore wind project in waters off the Japanese coast.

And back in 2017, the Norwegian energy company Equinor opened Hywind Scotland, a 30-megawatt turbine that it describes as “the first fully floating offshore wind farm”.

Floating offshore wind turbines are different from ground-mounted offshore wind turbines, which are anchored in the seabed. RWE describes floating turbines as “placed on floating structures that are attached to the seabed with mooring lines and anchors”.

One advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed in deeper waters compared to floor-mounted turbines. As the consultancy Carbon Trust notes, “Locations farther from shore … typically benefit from more consistent wind resources, which means floating wind can produce higher returns.”

While Shell is working on renewable energy projects and says it aims to become a zero-emission energy company by 2050, it remains a major fossil fuel producer. In February, the company confirmed that its total oil production had peaked in 2019 and expected total carbon emissions to peak at 1.7 gigatons per year in 2018.