Technology

From oil to wind

 By RP Siegel

Some people see renewables and fossils fuels as being locked in a battle over the future of the world’s energy. Indeed, there are areas where they currently compete, particularly in the electricity sector. But there are also ways in which they can help one another. That’s something Johan Sandberg, head of the Renewable Energy Department at DNV GL in Sweden, recognized, back in 2013, as the company was working on the their vision for the future as part of their 150th anniversary celebration the following year…

Sandberg was looking at the enormous amount of energy required to operate an offshore drilling platform, the size constraints, the cost and complexity of bringing onshore power to the platform, and the growing development of floating offshore wind platforms. The idea seemed a perfect fit for the company, which plays a major role in the maritime, oil and gas and energy industries, with a strong emphasis on renewables and efficiency. Soon after that the WIN-WIN Joint Industry Partnership (JIP) was formed with the participation of five oil companies: ENI Norge, Exxon-Mobil, Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd, Statoil, VNG, along with PG Flow Solutions, and ORE Catapult, an offshore renewable energy provider. The name WIN-WIN stands for wind-powered water injection.

Win-Win floating wind concept 'feasible' for oil & gas developments

While the early examples of offshore wind turbines were anchored to fixed foundations, which limited their use to relatively shallow water, most offshore oil fields are found in deeper water. It was the advent of floating wind turbines that caught Sandberg’s attention as a possible fit with offshore drilling. In fact, the first operational deepwater large-capacity floating wind turbine, the 2.3 MW HyWind, only became operational in the North Sea off Norway in late 2009. A second HyWind project consisting of five 6 MW floating turbines to be stationed off the coast of Scotland is currently underway. A giant 620 foot, 7 MW floating turbine was stationed off the coast of Fukushima, Japan in 2015.

According to Sandberg, the use of offshore wind power for water injection of undersea wells provides a number of benefits over traditional methods that generally rely on either gas turbines, diesel generators or onshore power brought over on cables to power the injection pumps. Water injection is generally used as a form of enhanced oil recovery to improve production on aging wells as output diminishes. Because it is only used for a portion of a production platform’s life cycle, there are advantages associated with a floating platform that can be towed into position and then redeployed elsewhere when no longer needed. Since injection is done at the periphery of the field, it must be located at a distance from the main platform, which requires a great deal of piping if the pumps are co-located with the well.

Hexicon and SSAB are aiming to have a pilot floating-platform wind farm operating off the Swedish coast by 2017

Working on a joint industry partnership with other companies that serve the same market is not that unusual in Norway. This type of cooperation is encouraged and supported by Norwegian authorities. That is particularly true for large developments that individual companies are too small to fast track. All the participating companies will have the right to utilize the results in their own operations. The team meets regularly; they vote on proposals and run the project by a consensus process. Sandberg says that having all these stakeholders on board at this early stage has really helped to clarify the requirements upfront. The project, according to Sandberg, is in the first of three phases. This phase consists of “finding a market for floating wind turbines,” in offshore drilling.

The second phase will be the design and development of a laboratory scale test system. This will include a microgrid, climate control for equipment, water treatment system, pump and battery system for storage and startup. It will present an opportunity for investigation and data collection that will allow the companies to “scratch all the corners,” in order to refine the system design. Safer says that the electrical power management and the startup/shut down processes will be of particular interest. The testing will combine both physical hardware along with computer simulation with some aspects being carried out in Norway, and others being done in the Netherlands. Phase three will be a full-scale prototype, installed in a controlled environment, which Sandberg says should be ready in 18 -20 months.

SEE MORE: Wind in the freezer by Robin Wylie

about the author
RP Siegel
Skilled writer. Technology, sustainability, engineering, energy, renewables, solar, wind, poverty, water, food. Studied both English Lit.and Engineering at university level. Inventor.