Europe’s growing marine energy sector wants to tap the offshore experience of the fossil fuel majors.
The Funding Ocean Energy through Strategic European Action (FORESEA) program, financed by the European Regional Development Fund, this month invited oil and gas players to take part in a call for proposals to help developers of offshore technologies.
The call aims to help developers of offshore technologies transition into the renewable energy space by developing new applications for their products, said FORESEA in a press release.
Successful applicants will get cash to test concepts at one of four FORESEA marine energy test centers: the European Marine Energy Centre in the U.K., the Dutch Marine Energy Centre in the Netherlands, the Site D’Experimentation en Mer in France and SmartBay in Ireland.
The applicants will have between 60 percent and 100 percent of their test site fees covered by FORESEA, said Rob Flynn, communication and membership manager for Ocean Energy Europe, a marine energy industry group.
For a six-month grid-connected test, these fees could be up to around €250,000 ($296,000), he said. The FORESEA awards are only expected to form a part of the funding package for test programs.
“It can be the incentive technology developers need to get in the water and develop products for the ocean energy market, though,” Flynn commented.
Co-financing capability, which shouldn’t be a problem for oil and gas firms, is one of five scoring criteria for applications, along with feasibility, schedule, impact and readiness for deployment.
The funding, available for up to a year, also covers technical support, licensing and permits, and business development services to help technology developers find markets for their products.
This is the fourth call for proposals that FORESEA has issued, but the first that has been extended to non-renewable offshore industries including oil and gas, subsea operations and shipping.
To date, FORESEA has not been targeting such technologies, but there are lots of examples of technology transfer from other sectors, said Flynn.
He cited surveying and geological planning, remotely operated vehicles, mooring techniques and technologies, port logistics, corrosion control systems, cables, coatings and sealants as areas where marine energy has borrowed heavily from other sectors.
“We've seen a big increase in interest from companies in the oil and gas market in getting into the wave and tidal energy space, which makes a lot of sense given the prolonged downturn in that market,” he said.
“A lot of these will be developing technologies for the offshore wind market, which can easily be transferred to the wave and tidal also," he added. "Ocean energy is the next generation of renewable energy technology, and there is a massive opportunity there.”
Europe is looking to install 100 gigawatts of wave and tidal capacity over the next 30 years, he said. The industry is focusing on coatings, anti-fouling and corrosion, which have been heavily investigated by offshore industries for decades.
Experts told GTM that oil and gas majors might view the opportunity with interest, even if it was too early to expect important moves into the marine energy arena.
“I think that any large-scale investment is unlikely, but all the European majors have new energy funds set up where they support a variety of clean technologies,” said Valentina Kretzschmar, director of corporate research at GTM’s parent company, Wood Mackenzie.
“In that context, I can see them investing in marine renewable technologies,” she said.
However, she cautioned: “The majors already struggle with very low returns from mainstream renewables such as solar and wind, and I suspect that returns from less-represented technologies would be even more challenging.”
Oil and gas companies were already experts in the development of offshore supply chains and fabrication, installation and support techniques, noted Andrew Slaughter, executive director of the U.S.-based Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.
“It’s quite natural to ask the oil and gas business to get involved in something like this, because it’s got decades of offshore experience and knowledge.”