Floating offshore wind "greatest opportunity" for subsea sector in decades

Hayley Everett
GUH chief executive Neil Gordon. Photo via GUH.

The Global Underwater Hub (GUH), a newly-formed trade and industry body for the subsea sector, is building a robust case for the UK government to support the £8 billion industry and capitalise on the opportunities offered by floating offshore wind. 

The organisation is calling for the government to support the sector and place the UK at the forefront of delivering floating offshore wind capabilities, which GUH chief executive Neil Gordon says is one of the "biggest industrial opportunities for decades" in UK waters.

To this end, up to £160 million is currently being made available through the government's Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme (FLOWMIS) to invest in scaling up the UK's offshore wind capabilities, with the GUH working closely with various agencies to identify the key areas of expertise and technology in which it should invest.

"With our world-leading status and market share, the subsea industry clearly has competitive advantage," said Gordon. "The underwater elements of manufacturing, assembling, installing and then operating and maintaining floating offshore wind projects are eminently transferable from offshore oil and gas, where subsea expertise was, largely, honed and refined."

Calling on designers, engineers and manufacturers

In order to ensure the UK does not miss out on the opportunity offered by floating offshore wind, GUH has encouraged the subsea sector to participate in the government's recent Request for Information. Port developers, floating wind foundation designers and fabricators, component and sub-component manufacturers, floating offshore wind developers, and EPCI contractors have all been approached for their input.

The responses will inform the government of potential opportunities, capabilities, and supply chain capacities going forward, and indicate where investment can have the largest impact. As it stands, the British Energy Security Strategy's goal to deliver up to 50GW of power from offshore wind by 2030 includes 5GW of floating wind, which is expected to increase significantly past that point. 

"From floating foundations to mooring and anchoring systems, as well as dynamic power cables, the subsea industry will be integral to delivering floating wind," said Gordon. "And it's not just these large-scale fabrication and manufacturing elements, it's also all the skills and technologies, components and sub-components, which will be required further down the line and which we have in abundance in the UK."

Existing investment in floating offshore wind

According to Gordon, it is crucial for the government to know how to effectively deliver the industrial investment required by initiatives such as ScotWind, a programme which will lease areas of the seabed around Scotland for wind farm developments, and the Innovation and Targeted Oil & Gas (INTOG) seabed leasing round. 

"By becoming a first-mover in floating offshore wind at scale, the UK will be well-placed to capitalise on the plethora of floating wind, which is anticipated to rapidly increase beyond then," he said. "The scale of what is planned in UK waters, through ScotWind, is unprecedented and signals one of the biggest industrial opportunities for decades."

In fact, ScotWing projects are set to receive around £25 billion investment from Crown Estate Scotland, with the total investment across the projects' supply chains amounting to some £66 billion. Out of the 17 planned projects, 11 will utilise floating wind turbines while around 80% of the £25 billion ringfenced for Scotland will be dedicated to floating wind. 

"And this is before we factor in INTOG, which will attract bidders to apply for the rights to build offshore windfarms for the purpose of decarbonising oil and gas production in the North Sea by providing clean, green energy to electrify platforms," Gordon added. "It is anticipated that, due to the urgency in meeting North Sea Transition targets, INTOG projects could get underway first and pave the way for ScotWind projects."

From GUH's perspective, the organisation is looking to facilitate connections and conversations between subsea firms, developers, and the government to provide visibility across the projects.

"But we're not just a go-between, GUH will be the go-to organisation, not only for subsea companies looking to capitalise on the opportunity but also for government in terms of knowing where and when to invest in order to build out capability and capacity and accelerate the massive scale-up that will be required to take full advantage of the biggest industrial opportunity in the North Sea in decades," Gordon said. 

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