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Barents wind blows for Hammerfest LNG

Norway launches consultation exercise including area for floating wind turbines to power Equinor plant

Norway is airing a proposal for offshore wind development in the Barents Sea that could be used for electrification of Equinor’s Hammerfest liquefied natural gas plant on the northern island of Melkoya in the Arctic region.

The Sandskallen-Soroya North area to the north-west of Hammerfest is one of three areas - along with Utsira North and Southern North Sea 2 - that are being proposed for floating wind installations off Norway under a consultation exercise launched on Tuesday.

The Barents area has both shallow and deeper waters, which means it could be suitable for both fixed and floating wind turbines, and is fairly close to shore so could be attractive for smaller schemes such as demonstration projects, according to the Petroleum & Energy Ministry.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Norwegian media the area was “most interesting as it is in close proximity to Hammerfest and Melkoya”, the location for the LNG plant that serves the Equinor-operated Snohvit gas field.

“We believe an offshore wind installation is of interest for electrification of Melkoya, as well as serving as an additional source of power in the northern region,” she was quoted as saying.

State-controlled operator Equinor is already studying the possibility of full or partial electrification of the Hammerfest LNG plant, which accounts for around 2% of Norway’s carbon dioxide emissions - or 900,000 tonnes - and is therefore seen as a major contributor to environmental pollution.

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However, offshore wind development in the Barents could potentially provide a valuable power source for future oil and gas field developments in the remote harsh-environment region.

Electrification of offshore fields in the Barents - including Vaar Energi’s Goliat oilfield - has so far proven impracticable and too costly due to the technological difficulties of transmitting power over long distances from shore.

Equinor is already looking to develop the Hywind Tampen floating windmill project farther south in the North Sea that is intended to cut CO2 emissions from its Snorre and Gullfaks fields by partially replacing power supplied by platform-based gas turbines.

Upstream has reported that state climate agency Enova is set to provide financial backing for the project, which is a key condition for a possible final investment decision this year.

Petroleum & Energy Minister Kjell-Borge Freiberg said in launching the consultation exercise: “I think it is important to open one area for bottom-fixed wind power near the coast. This provides opportunity for the ocean industries in the north.”

The other two areas being proposed for wind installations are also in proximity to oil and gas production facilities.

“It is now time to prepare for the future development by allocating space for offshore renewables,” Freiberg said.

The Johan Sverdrup field is being developed by Equinor in the Utsira High area of the North Sea with electrification from shore from start-up, scheduled for November this year, and will also supply power to three other nearby fields - Edvard Grieg, Gina Krog and Ivar Aasen - under the second phase of development due on stream in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Norway has a requirement that new offshore field developments should be powered with electricity from shore, although exemptions have been granted in some cases if this is not commercially or technically viable.

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