Shell is looking to develop a huge floating offshore wind farm in South Korea

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If built, the project would be located in waters off the coast of Ulsan, South Korea.
Insung Jeon | Moment | Getty Images

A joint venture centered around the development of a massive floating offshore wind farm in waters off South Korea has been formally established.

Oil and gas major Shell has an 80% stake in the JV, which is called MunmuBaram, with the remaining 20% held by CoensHexicon. The latter is itself a joint venture between South Korea-headquartered COENS and Swedish firm Hexicon.

In a statement earlier this week Shell said the project was in what it described as “a feasibility assessment stage.” If built, the 1.4 gigawatt wind farm would be situated between 65 and 80 kilometers off Ulsan, a coastal city and industrial hub in the south east of the country.

Water depths for the proposed facility, which would be developed in phases, range between 120 and 160 meters. It would be expected to produce as much as 4.65 terawatt hours of energy annually, powering over 1 million households.

“Shell views offshore wind energy as a key part of a net-zero energy system, both in South Korea and globally,” Joe Nai, Shell’s general manager of offshore wind Asia, said Wednesday.

The formal establishment of the MunmuBaram venture comes as authorities in South Korea target carbon neutrality by the year 2050. The country wants renewable energy’s share in power generation to hit 20% in 2030, up from 7.6% in 2017, and aims to develop 12 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030.

Major players

Shell is not the only big firm involved in projects focused on floating offshore wind. Last month, it was announced that RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power had signed an agreement that will see the two businesses study the feasibility of a large-scale floating offshore wind project in waters off Japan’s coast.

And back in 2017, Norwegian energy major Equinor opened Hywind Scotland, a 30 megawatt facility it calls “the first full-scale floating offshore wind farm.”

Floating offshore wind turbines are different to bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines that are rooted to the seabed. RWE describes floating turbines as being “deployed on top of floating structures that are secured to the seabed with mooring lines and anchors.”

One advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed in deeper waters compared to bottom-fixed ones. As the Carbon Trust, an advisory firm, notes: “Sites further from shore … tend to benefit from more consistent wind resource, meaning floating wind can deliver higher yields.”

While Shell is working on renewable energy projects and says it wants to become a net-zero emissions energy firm by 2050, it remains a significant producer of fossil fuels. In February, the business confirmed its total oil production had peaked in 2019 and said it expected its total carbon emissions to have peaked in 2018, at 1.7 gigatonnes per year.

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