Archives for category: world energy

There are distinct signs that the offshore wind sector is emerging from a period of relative quiet. For the first time in several years, the number of final investment decisions (FIDs) is on the rise, while technological advances and ongoing research are making progress in improving the cost efficiency of offshore wind generated power. So, how does this potential translate into the offshore vessel sector?

Wind-ing Up Investment

Over the last few years, interest in the offshore wind industry has been on the rise, mainly due to a number of high-profile FIDs and an increase in investment levels. This theme has so far extended into 2016, which is shaping up to be the most successful year for the industry yet. At €14bn, the investment value of new FIDs reached for European projects during 1H 2016 was already greater than full year 2015 levels. The majority (74%) of this investment has stemmed from the UK, consolidating its place as the industry leader. For example, DONG reached an FID for the first gigawatt scale wind farm, Hornsea Project 1 in February 2016. DONG also gained development approval for Hornsea Project 2 later in the year. More broadly (as shown by the Graph of the Month), other countries have also made headway. A total of 3.5GW of capacity has started-up offshore Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and China since end-2014, 2.4GW of which was off Germany.

Owners Get Wind Of Demand

Increased investment levels in the offshore wind industry are likely to spur demand for related vessel types. Initial interest earlier in the 2000s focussed on turbine installation jack-ups, but more recently the focus has been on accommodation solutions, particularly those equipped with a motion-compensated gangway to allow “walk-to-work” access. At the start of October, there were over 25 traditional accommodation vessels with a known track record of working within the renewable sector. A class of vessels specifically tailored for the offshore wind industry has also been gaining interest. These so-called Service Operation Vessels (SOVs) are designed to offer accommodation, maintenance and manoeuvrability in one ship-shaped unit. At the start of October 2016, there were 12 such vessels in service and an additional 11 units on order.

Blowin’ In The Wind

Despite a slowdown in newbuild investment in Wind Turbine Installation Vessels (WTIVs) following a peak of 13 units contracted in 2010, future demand could be generated by turbine upsizing and a move to deeper waters, driving a requirement for larger vessels. Since the start of 2005, the average turbine rotor diameter has increased by 39% to 110m, while the average water depth of wind farms under construction (45m) is 66% greater than the water depth of active farms (27m) as of start October 2016. There has already been one WTIV newbuild order placed in 2016 for China, plus one for Japan.

To some degree, the perception of greater offshore wind activity is only relative to the challenging backdrop in the offshore oil and gas market, and risks do still exist. However, there is no denying that investment in the wind sector is on the increase. This will ultimately result in a rise in total installed capacity and is already encouraging investment in specialist vessels to support the offshore wind industry.


The offshore industry is heavily dependent on the well-being of the oil and gas sector, and with oil prices remaining below $50/bbl, the offshore market is largely full of doom and gloom. However, there is one sector for which headlines in November have been positive: offshore wind. Could this renewable energy source provide some owners with an alternative market and an opportunity for specialisation?

Something In The Wind

As the Graph of the Month illustrates, historically offshore wind farms have been located close to shore in shallow waters of less than 50m. Today, the industry appears to offer potential for the offshore market as both approved and proposed projects are getting increasingly deeper and further from shore. Following a slowdown in investment due to regulatory instability in key markets such as UK and Germany, future final investment decisions (FIDs) have been looking less certain. Indeed, in 2014 the number of turbine installations in the UK fell by 35% during the first six months of the year in comparison to 2013. Yet, November’s headlines might indicate a wind of change. Statoil has reached a FID for a pilot floating wind farm, Hywind, moored to the sea floor offshore Scotland. The departure from traditional fixed turbines opens up the opportunity for more ambitious, deepwater projects. DONG also made a FID regarding the Walney Extension in the Irish Sea, which will become the largest fixed offshore wind farm yet.

Vessel Requirements

The installation of offshore wind farms requires the use of number of construction vessels, particularly cablelay and heavylift units. Estimates suggest that around 100km of cabling is required per wind farm. However, self-elevating designs currently dominate the installation phase due to their stability. Although most existing self-elevating platforms can be used, an increasing number of units are specifically designed for operation within the wind sector: the wind turbine installation (WTI) fleet grew at a CAGR of 11% over 2005-2014. A peak in WTI vessel orders in 2010 following a third licensing round in the UK resulted in a record number of 10 units entering the fleet in 2012. As of November 2015, 31 WTI vessels were active globally. As wind farms move further from shore into rougher waters, requirement for larger WTI vessels is likely to increase.

An Alternative Market?

On the other hand, the maintenance phase of offshore wind farms has the ability to absorb more traditional vessels in the North Sea. A handful of PSVs and MSVs have been converted into accommodation vessels for maintenance personnel. However, in reality the main demand is for small crew transfer vessels, usually with a LOA of <25m. The crew transfer fleet has grown substantially from approximately 40 units in 2010 to over 200 in 2015.

For now, offshore wind remains a niche market rather than a viable alternative for the mainstream fleet. Future growth is largely dependent on how attitudes of governments and private companies will evolve. However, technological advances, such as Statoil’s floating wind farm, at least push the industry in a helpful direction for offshore as a whole.


On July 14th 2015, after 20 months of negotiations, Iran and the so-called “P5+1” signed the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”: in return for US, EU and UN-mandated sanctions against the country being gradually lifted, Iran has agreed to roll back its nuclear capabilities. Should the deal stick, the door will open to foreign investment once more. What, then, are the possible implications for Iranian offshore oil? Should this deal stick, IOCs will soon be able to operate in Iran once more. What, then, are the possible implications for Iran’s offshore sector?

Political Locks

On the eve of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, total Iranian oil production stood at 6.0m bpd, of which around 12% (0.72m bpd) was from 13 offshore fields producing oil, all located in shallow waters and exploited via fixed platforms. The turmoil of the Revolution saw oil production drop to 1.70m bpd in 1980, and in the ensuing Iran-Iraq War, offshore fields like Salman were shut in due to military action. As a result, actual offshore oil production was less than 50% of capacity for most of the 1980s; after the War, production began to recover, peaking at 88% of capacity (0.60m bpd) in 1997. However, as US and then EU economic sanctions on Iran tightened, IOCs were forced to exit the country, depriving Iran’s offshore sector of key investment and technology. Development work slowed and much of Iran’s offshore 2P reserves (30.3bn bbl of oil; 707 tcf of gas) were locked away. At the same time, Iran lacked the resources to implement EOR at brownfields. As a result, the gap between actual and nameplate offshore production was 1.38m bpd by 2014, with production at 0.54m bpd.

Rusty Hinges

Now that sanctions are to be lifted, indications suggest Iran aims to get as much oil production as possible back onstream in 2015/16. Restoring offshore production is likely to require more than just turning the taps though. Iran’s ability to halt decline at brownfields has been curbed, in contrast to other mature producers like the U.A.E. Half of Iran’s active offshore oil fields predate the Revolution (the oldest started up in 1961). Extensive EOR work is likely to be required at such fields – one opportunity for IOCs. Thus, while offshore production is forecast to grow by 7.3% in 2015, this is mostly due to South Pars condensate production ramping up, rather than utilisation of older capacity.

An Alternative Entrance?

Iran is planning an “oil contract roadshow” in London in 2H 2015, with the stated aim of attracting foreign investment in E&P of $185 billion by 2020. However, it is likely that much of the investment will be directed towards stalled onshore projects such as Yadavaran, and to restoring production at mature onshore fields like Azadegan. A spate of onshore discoveries made from 2006 to 2008 may also be prioritised by cash-hungry Iran, particularly those in the Khuzestan province spanning the Iraq border. Some of Iran’s 7 undeveloped offshore fields like Esfandiar (532m bbl) may warrant priority, and the South Pars Oil Layer is scheduled to come onstream in 2018. But even taking into account the Caspian (home to the 2011 Sardar-e Jangal 500m bbl find), offshore oil opportunities for IOCs (and so vessel owners) may be limited at first.

It seems, then, that the offshore oil capacity gap could widen before it narrows. Certainly given its reserves Iran has long-term offshore potential, notwithstanding its troubled history. But observers expecting a quick and big uptick in oil-related offshore activity might need to be patient.


Natural gas demand and onshore and offshore production data is now available in Offshore Intelligence Monthly, split out by region and country on pages 3, 6-7 and 20-25. Analysing this data, it is apparent that the offshore hydrocarbons cake just keeps on getting bigger.

Since 1993, world combined offshore oil and gas production has increased by 58%, to 43.7m boepd in 2013; and between 2013 and 2023, it is forecast to increase by a further 35%, to 58.9m barrels oil equivalent per day (boepd). While oil is playing its part in this, gas is proving an even more potent rising agent in the offshore mix, of which it is taking an increasing share.

Measuring the Ingredients

As the Graph of the Month shows, growth rates for offshore oil and gas production have moved more or less in line y-o-y, with gas consistently ahead of oil as hitherto undeveloped historical offshore gas discoveries are brought onstream. While offshore gas production grew with a 3.8% CAGR from 1993 to 2013, oil exhibited a 1.4% CAGR. The spread between gas and oil production is forecast to continue 2013-23, with gas and oil production CAGRs of 4.2% and 2.0% respectively. It is thus expected that offshore gas production will almost achieve parity in volume terms with offshore oil by 2023, accounting for over 49% of offshore hydrocarbons output (versus 32% in 1993).

Energy Hunger

The strength of gas in the offshore production mix in part reflects faster historical and anticipated growth in gas demand. Since 2009, oil demand growth has stagnated in OECD countries whereas gas demand growth has remained firm, averaging 3.0% p.a. 2010-13 with a rate of 2.1% projected for 2014. In non-OECD countries, gas demand growth averaged 4.7% over the 2010-13 period, compared to 3.9% for oil demand. Similarly, 2014 demand growth is forecast at 3.7% for gas and 2.7% for oil. As non-OECD countries continue to industrialise, demand growth for natural gas is likely to remain firm.

Let Them Eat Cake

Given this scenario, it is likely shale gas will meet only a portion of future demand. Conventional gas will still have a role in feeding world energy hunger, and the offshore gas element of this increasingly so. In 2013, 30% of world natural gas production was offshore; in 2023 this is forecast to reach 36%. Accordingly, the offshore gas field investment outlook is positive. Offshore field operators are initiating schemes to utilise associated gas at mature oilfields. Moreover, development of offshore gas fields is increasingly perceived as economic. Gas fields account for 51% of fields under development and 48% of undeveloped offshore discoveries.

More so than oil, offshore gas growth is driven by mega-projects. Current examples include nine South Pars phases off Iran, Leviathan off Israel and Shah Deniz II in the Caspian, due onstream in 2015-17, 2017 and 2019. Major LNG projects planned offshore East Africa and Australia, entailing extensive subsea production systems and deployment of the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) vessels (like Shell’s “Prelude”), are also responsible much of the forecast growth in offshore gas. All in all then, gas looks to be quite a tasty slice of the offshore cake. Bon appétit!