BP's renewables strategy: Why it's changing

Unsolved BP-Orsted dispute over wind farms may raise similar battles for the North Sea

The conflict between BP and Orsted over their wind farms in the North Sea may be a sign of others. According to the experts, other conflicts may come over the North Sea area as it becomes more and more congested.

Energy experts analyze that Britain’s eastern seaboard position allows becoming a significant battleground for competing for green technologies in the years to come. This sea area has shallow waters ideal for fixed-bottom offshore wind farms and favorable geological formations for carbon storage,

Chris Gent, policy manager at the European carbon capture trade group CCSA, noted that since 2015, offshore wind has clearly advanced rather swiftly. It put more pressure on available sea floor space and poses a significant issue for licensing authorities.

It’s not just climate targets that are at stake, wind farms bring money

The dispute between British energy giant BP and Danish renewables company Orsted, probably will end in the coming months. The British authorities will decide on Hornsea Four’s final approval on February 22. Then BP and its partners will decide on Endurance’s final investment decision this year. Both parties expect the dispute resolution by the end of the year.

The projects, which together would span around 500 sq km of the seabed, have a lot of money riding on them in addition to climate targets. While Orsted estimated the cost of its wind farm at up to 8 billion pounds ($9.9 billion), BP did not provide a cost estimate for Endurance.

Sharing is caring. Isn’t it?

The negotiations go on despite the challenges.

Orsted stated it was sure they could achieve an agreement to allow both projects to proceed, while BP stated they committed to a mutually acceptable solution through continued commercial conversations.

According to regulators and industry experts, there is optimism for joint wind and CCS projects.

The NSTA regulator warned that technological advancements might alter the calculus even as it doused vast shared spaces in cold water. In a CCS industry where profits are already scarce, it was further said that alternative methods of CO2 monitoring were either still in the early phases of development or more expensive.

Ocean bottom nodes (OBN), which are fixed to the seafloor, are the front-runner. They might do most of the duties formerly performed by seismic data boats. Ronnie Parr, a senior geophysicist at the NSTA, asserted that even if OBN costs were anticipated to decline, employing boats will likely be more affordable.

Also, the regulator was unambiguous. It stated in its August 2022 report that big physical overlaps between carbon storage sites and wind farms. Now they are mostly impractical with the existing technology.

What if all neighbors in the North Sea do the same for their wind farms

Next month, when government planners must decide whether to give Hornsea Four the final go-ahead, a crucial moment looms.

The government designated the East Coast Cluster in 2021 for a quicker development process, despite the fact that Endurance and its umbrella project, the East Coast Cluster, also face regulatory obstacles.

According to John Underhill, geoscientist and director of Aberdeen University’s Centre of Energy Transition, who emphasized the necessity for additional CCS sites if Britain is to fulfill carbon-capture targets, there is no sign of a resolution between the corporations and the same issue may arise elsewhere.

According to the NSTA and Underhill, other co-location options include the upcoming Acorn carbon project off the coast of Scotland, which overlaps with the MarramWind offshore wind farm.

Discussions with Acorn are ongoing, according to Shell and ScottishPowerRenewables, who acquired the initial rights to build MarramWind a year ago. Both projects are in their very early stages, and Shell, who is also a developer on Acorn, stressed that the overlap was not substantial.

In addition, Underhill mentioned the abandoned gas field Pickerill as a prospective location for CCS in the future, but he warned that complications could arise from current plans to build the Outer Dowsing wind farm.

By the end of the decade, according to the wind farm, will power Outer Dowsing’s project director David Few, 1.6 million houses.