BOEM – strategic update
As part of my role as a renewable energy strategy trainer I spent an interesting week at Sterling near Washington DC, helping the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management – BOEM – understand the nuances of offshore wind sector lessons learned from the already well-established industry in the UK and Europe. More recently I was invited to a strategic update hosted by the Marine Technology Society and BOEM which laid out the current and future opportunities for offshore wind in the United States. I shared some thoughts on the United Sates market in my previous article The-gulf-of-mexico-leasing-round-offshore-wind-and-hydrogen and it’s good to see BOEM echo some of the points raised.
There has been progress on both sides of the Atlantic since my visit; the UK has had its efforts in offshore wind recognised by Government with the adoption of the sector deal and is now the world leader in the field. The United States had just seen the inauguration of the Block Island offshore wind farm as I visited BOEM and although it remains the case that this is the only operational offshore windfarm in US waters there has been significant progress.
Behind the scenes there is clear evidence of joined up thinking between the US States with the introduction of a new regional development opportunity and, of course, the emergence of the ground-breaking hydrogen market.
The eastern states host many offshore wind projects and remain the US frontrunners, these projects are augmented by several schemes on the West Coast which, with its deeper waters favours floating schemes. There is a nascent supply chain emerging that is able to provide Jones Act-complaint vessels, a legal requirement for vessels in US waters.
The US is looking at market demand especially coastal cities where cabling requirements for offtake would be reduced, so bringing down the cost of offshore wind.
As I highlighted in my recent article, the-gulf-of-mexico-leasing-round-offshore-wind-and-hydrogen, BOEM has reiterated the importance of the development opportunity of the Gulf of Mexico. The region hosts long-standing oil and gas installations and as with schemes such as Project Acorn in the Northeast of Scotland, and others appearing around the UK involving the repurposing of oil and gas assets , the Gulf of Mexico offers similar opportunities on a vast scale.
Under BOEM’s auspices initial assessments have been undertaken for offshore wind in the Gulf; the headline development opportunity is over 500 gigawatts. Given that the UK, the world leader, has taken 20 years to get to 10 gigawatts the scale of the opportunity is evident.
Whilst the Northeast Scottish coastal scheme is being developed in an extreme marine environment, it does not experience the regular hurricane conditions prevalent in the shallower Gulf. New generations of hurricane-proof machines are being trialled potentially for use in Gulf schemes as well as projects in the far east and other regions throughout the world where hurricanes occur.
Technical and resource potential, Gulf of Mexico
BOEM’s approach to de-risking major projects before leases are offered is innovative and has now been replicated in the UK by the Crown Estate as seen in the current round-four leasing round. This enables the zones to be market-ready by the time they are offered and the adoption of this US-instigated strategy in the UK demonstrates well the developing circular nature of learning within the offshore wind industry. BOEM is also replicating elements of the UK sector deal with its emphasis on supply chain and local jobs.
The US, after a slow start, is now appearing as a strategic global opportunity; Equinor Shell, BP and Total are all interested in the prized development rights. By not being a first mover, the United States avoided some of the pain involved in the nascent European experience, not least around the only recently resolved issues surrounding cabling and mechanical failure.
BOEM is also investigating the potential game-changing technologies surrounding carbon capture and storage and the production of hydrogen. The state of Louisiana looks well placed, while in Texas there are extant oil and gas installations in places such as Houston, Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico to be decommissioned in the coming years. It may be a smart move to repurpose the existing infrastructure to produce hydrogen offshore This integration of offshore wind and hydrogen is already happening in Europe through schemes such as Project Acorn and elsewhere and of which of which BOEM is aware.
I have established a group for those interested in developments in the US – please join me and over nine hundred companies and individuals at the Offshore Wind and Hydrogen professional group https://bit.ly/3gHQa0V.