Stavanger, Norway-based Equinor this week trumpeted a major oil discovery in the North Sea, less than a month after announcing a breakthrough offshore wind deal.

The company, which a year ago changed its name from Statoil in a bid to reflect interests beyond oil, said it had found up to 28 million barrels of recoverable crude on the Norwegian continental shelf.

“These are profitable barrels that can be quickly tied in to existing infrastructure and generate substantial revenues for society,” said Nick Ashton, Equinor’s senior vice president for exploration in Norway and the U.K., in a statement.

The discovery had been made from Equinor’s Visund A platform in association with partners Petoro, ConocoPhillips and Repsol, Equinor said. The partners will now consider how to develop the resource.

The announcement took the shine off a potentially significant offshore wind deal between Equinor and state-owned Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC), unveiled a little over a fortnight ago.

Equinor said the two companies had inked a memorandum of understanding to develop commercial offshore wind in South Korea. KNOC is looking to build a 200-megawatt floating offshore wind project 36 miles off the coast of Ulsan, the capital of South Korea’s southeastern industrial heartland.

The memorandum gives Equinor a foothold in what analyst firm Wood Mackenzie expects will be the fourth-largest offshore wind market in Asia-Pacific, behind China, Taiwan and Japan. It is Equinor’s first announcement in the emerging Asia-Pacific offshore scene. 

Elsewhere, the company has offshore wind interests in the U.K., where it is involved with the Dudgeon, Sheringham Shoal, Dogger Bank and Hywind projects; Germany, where it shares ownership of Arkona; and the U.S., where it is bidding to build Empire Wind.

A leader in floating wind platforms

The KNOC partnership could also give the Norwegian energy player more scope to consolidate its leadership in floating offshore wind platforms.

While a number of other designs are currently being tested, Equinor’s spar-buoy concept is the only floating foundation that has so far been deployed at commercial scale, on the 30-megawatt Hywind project in Scotland.

In South Korea, Equinor will be racing to beat the renewable energy giant Macquarie in being the first to market with a floating platform.

Last June, Macquarie said it would be partnering with South Korea’s Gyeongbuk Floating Offshore Wind Power for a 1-gigawatt project located around 30 miles from Pohang and Ulsan.

“South Korea has large potential and offers attractive opportunities within offshore wind,” said Stephen Bull, senior vice president for wind and low carbon in Equinor's New Energy Solutions division, in a press note.

“We look forward to evaluat[ing] how we can further expand our portfolio within offshore wind and contribute to develop renewable energy solutions in South Korea.”

A two-part strategy

Equinor has been upfront about pursuing offshore wind alongside oil and gas since it changed its name last March.

The company website says: “We’re actively developing our business around renewables,” yet “we remain fully committed to the Norwegian continental shelf, maintaining a high level of exploration activity in all areas to replenish our portfolio.” 

Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables senior analyst Robert Liew said Equinor’s involvement with KNOC was “in line with expectations.”

The companies were due to install a floating foundation for demonstration purposes off Ulsan later this year, he said.

Local authorities are supportive of the technology, Liew commented, likely because it could provide extra work to Ulsan’s shipyards, said to be the largest in the world.

Equinor’s memorandum with KNOC comes as several oil majors are looking to diversify into renewable energy.

The most active in recent months has been Royal Dutch Shell, which snapped up the electric vehicle charging firm Greenlots in January and the battery maker sonnen in February, as well as investing in Makani, an airborne wind energy system maker. 

Shell is also active in offshore wind, with a 50 percent stake in NoordZee Wind in the Netherlands and joint ventures with EDP Renewables and EDF Renewables to develop up to 4.1 gigawatts of capacity in the U.S., off Massachusetts and New Jersey.