Australia’s Woodside Energy has joined a number of large global oil and gas firms investigating how they can add renewables to their production portfolio and supply chain, alongside other supermajors including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total — all of which are raising thier investment in cleaner energy.
A shift towards new energies will be a highlight at the 2019 Australasian Oil & Gas Conference & Exhibition (AOG) according to Event Director, Bill Hare.
“Renewables are reliable, plentiful and will continue to decrease in cost as technology and infrastructure improve, so it’s easy to see why some of the biggest companies in the world are embracing them into their business as they aim to lower emissions, reduce costs and enhance social licence,” said Hare.
In raw numbers, Shell leads the pack with plans to spend US$1-2 billion per year on clean energy technologies out of a total capex of US$25 to US$30 billion.
Since 2010, Total has spent the most on low-carbon energies, around 4.3 per cent of its budget and one of the world’s biggest oil companies – ExxonMobil – is injecting more than US$1 billion a year into alternative fuels in an attempt to create a whole new energy value for generations to come with their promising research into algae biofuels, biodiesel made from agricultural waste and carbonate fuel cells.
For other oil and gas companies, renewables are not strictly limited to future products, but rather ways to save production costs in the present day.
In Western Australia, Platinum Sponsor of AOG Woodside Energy is planning to use renewables to minimise their gas use at the Karratha Gas Plant. The plant consumes 7 per cent of the gas it gets from offshore to generate power to run itself, and this creates about 70 per cent of the plant’s carbon emissions.
At the time of the announcement, Woodside Energy Chief Executive, Peter Coleman, said that cutting the amount of gas used for fuel by combining solar panels and batteries with gas generation would increase LNG exports – making both environmental and economic sense.
In Europe, offshore renewables mainly sourced from wind farms are becoming a normal part of the energy mix. This source of electrical power generation sits alongside oil and gas, hydroelectricity and nuclear. In the UK, offshore wind generates more electricity than coal.
For John Baron who works in Oceaneering’s Renewables & Subsea Projects business unit, this presents an opportunity for the home girt by sea.
“It is noticeable in Australia that despite the enormous kilometres coastline, not one offshore wind farm currently exists.
“The closest proposed development is the ‘Star of the South’ wind farm set to be located in the Gippsland basin off the coast of Victoria,” said Baron who will be presenting during the ‘Offshore Wind’ session of the 2019 AOG Subsea Forum.
The Star of the South project is currently in the feasibility phase and is being developed by Australian developers who founded the project in 2012 and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), one of the world’s leading offshore wind and infrastructure developers.
Once operational the project could generate up to an estimated 8,000GWh of electricity per year and provide a reliable energy source for Victoria, producing power for up to 1.2 million homes. Importantly the project has the potential to avoid up to 10,500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and an estimated saving of 12,500 million litres of water.
For Baron and his cohorts, projects such as this also provide horizontally aligned opportunities for firms currently working in the subsea engineering service industry each with their own unique challenges, such as the sheer volume of components that need to be fabricated, transported and installed in an offshore wind project.
“Your typical offshore oil and gas development comprises of jacket and topsides, pipelines or flowlines and umbilicals, perhaps a subsea manifold and the subsequent spool pieces for tie-in.
“However, a typical wind farm development consisting of 100 turbines will have 100 foundation structures, 100 turbine towers, 100 nacelles, 400 turbine blades, one to two offshore substations, 100 short inter-array cables and two cables each 20 to 30 kilometres long connecting it to shore,” said Baron.
While LNG has been getting all the headlines over the last decade as Australia races to take the top spot as the world’s number one producer, it’s the universe’s most abundant gas that’s been creeping up in importance.
At an address to the Melbourne Mining Club last month, Peter Coleman said that the Woodside Energy was seeing commercial pressure emerging from customers in Japan and Korea, who are encouraging the company to develop hydrogen power as a carbon-neutral energy source that can ultimately be derived from renewable sources.
“Green hydrogen is the longer-term goal, using renewable power to source hydrogen from water. But to get there we need low-cost hydrogen, for instance from natural gas, to build scale and experience in hydrogen transport and distribution.
“This so-called blue hydrogen uses steam-methane reforming to produce hydrogen from natural gas. Natural gas is, of course, largely made up of methane, containing four hydrogen atoms. This is proven technology today, but more research and development is needed, particularly into the shipping of hydrogen. Already, some of our destination markets are using LNG to produce hydrogen, which makes sense, given LNG is hydrogen-rich and easily transportable,” said Coleman.
It’s not just Woodside who are seeing the long-term potential in Hydrogen, with the McGowan Government set to establish a council to drive opportunities for a 21st-century renewable hydrogen industry in Western Australia.
“This Government is pushing for innovation, diversification and bold new ways to develop clean energies, grow exports and drive new job opportunities across regional WA.
“As the world continues to transition to a low-emissions future, it is increasingly apparent that hydrogen can play an important role – and WA can be central to that future,” said Hon Mark McGowan, Premier of Western Australia in a media statement.
Both the Government and Woodside agree that WA is an enviable position to develop a renewable hydrogen industry courtesy of its vast available land, renewable energy resources and close ties to key international markets such as Japan and Korea who are choosing a substantial role for hydrogen in their future energy mix. The 2020 Olympic Village in Japan will be powered by hydrogen and hydrogen fuel-cell cars will ferry athletes and officials between venues.
An energy shift
For Hare, the decision to broaden the focus of the event was an easy one.
“In a recent survey of AOG attendees 90 per cent said that they wanted to meet with new energy exhibitors in 2019 and 83 per cent had plans to incorporate new energy into their business,” said the Event Director.
All three of the event’s forums will feature expert speakers who will discuss technologies related to microgrids, renewables and more.
“Over the last 12 months, our event partners have witnessed a shift in market confidence, a shift from construction to operations and maintenance, a shift towards greater automation and digitalisation and of course, a shift towards new energies.
“This growing acceptance of new energies is presenting opportunities for companies to extend their value chain, grow into new markets and use their skills in areas that were unimagined when AOG first began over 35 years ago,” said Hare.