Orsted Sells LNG Unit, But Says Its Natural Gas Business Isn’t Going Anywhere
The company says gas has a role in the transition but says power sales and offshore wind development are now its top earners.
Danish energy company Ørsted has sold off its LNG unit but will hang on to its gas trading business.
The firm, previously known as Danish Oil and Natural Gas, sold its upstream fossil fuels business to Ineos in 2017 and is phasing coal out of its generation mix by 2023.
In a deal announced this week, its loss-making LNG business will be transferred to Glencore in return for a payment from Ørsted. The deal will close in the summer of 2020, with the company saying the net impact on its accounts from 2020 onward will be positive.
The company’s recent history has been dominated by the deployment of offshore wind in Europe and the build-out of an extensive global project pipeline.
While renewables remain an investment priority, they are not the only show in town. A spokesperson for the company told GTM the rest of its gas business was unlikely to be divested. The firm has a series of legacy gas contracts and no existing plans to sell them.
“There’ll be a long transition period leading up to a 100 percent green energy system, during which society can't do without gas. Gas is the least harmful fossil fuel available to support the transition to green energy, and we’ll continue to trade gas for years to come,” the spokesperson said.
According to this year’s Q3 financial results, natural gas sales contributed around a quarter of the Ørsted’s revenue, down from more than a third in the same period last year.
Offshore wind development and power sales are the biggest two earners. That trend is set to continue.
“Our strategic ambition and focus on renewable energy is supported by our extensive investment program. From 2019 to 2025, we currently expect total gross investments of approximately DKK 200 billion [$29.8 billion]. Investments in offshore wind farms are expected to constitute 75 to 85 percent of this,” the spokesperson said.
For comparison, the business unit that houses its gas activities currently accounts for 0 to 5 percent of the total investment pot.
The firm has 7.45 gigawatts of operational offshore wind projects and 2.9 gigawatts of awarded capacity for six projects in the U.S.
In terms of physical assets, a political decision from the Danish government will further trim the oil and gas infrastructure under Ørsted’s management and sharpen its clean-energy focus. The political decision in question was part of the complex process of divesting a previously debt-heavy national oil company from fossil fuels and listing it publicly.
“We have oil and gas pipes in the Danish part of the North Sea, a gas processing facility in Nybro, Denmark, and an oil terminal in Fredericia, Denmark. According to a political decision from 2016, all of these assets are to be divested to the Danish [transmission system operator] Energinet. There is an ongoing process in terms of this divestment,” according to the company.
The most recent accounts have around $2.35 billion of assets marked as "held for sale."
Once that deal closes and the coal is phased out, Ørsted’s 135-megawatt gas-fired heat and power plant in Copenhagen will be its only fossil fuel infrastructure. The company hopes to be on track to reach 99 percent renewable energy production by 2025.