Some oil and gas industry players are seeing the light and feeling the wind, adding renewables to their energy mix and portfolios.
Subsea 7 recently became the 100% owner of offshore contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting Holding Ltd. after purchasing K&S Baltic Offshore (Cyprus) Ltd.’s 50% shareholding in the company. In addition to the oil and gas industry, Netherlands-based Seaway provides services to the renewables sector. Such services include engineering, procurement, construction and installation of wind farm foundations as well as transport and installation services.
U.K.-based Subsea 7 already owned 50% of Seaway before making an offer in January to buy the whole company. The company reported increased activity in renewables and heavy lifting areas during its fourth-quarter earnings report, but it wasn’t enough to completely offset losses in other areas—as overall revenue fell by 9% compared to the same time in 2015.
Statoil is also planning to ramp up its focus on renewables. Already considered a leader in offshore wind energy, Statoil expects demand for new renewable energy to grow by up to 11% annually through 2040. The company is currently working on the world’s first floating wind farm offshore Scotland. The 30-megawatt wind farm is expected to power about 20,000 households. Production is expected to begin in late 2017, according to Statoil’s website.
During the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston last week, Statoil CEO Eldar Sætre said the company plans to allocate about 15% to 20% of its capex to renewables by 2030, if the projects are attractive.
“We all know that oil and gas will continue to be a significant mix of the energy mix for decades to come; however, we have to respond more forcibly to the challenges of climate change, reducing CO2 and methane emissions,” he said, noting this will come with a cost but added companies that address such challenges will have a competitive advantage.
Royal Dutch Shell, which announced March 9 that it is divesting its 60% oil sands interest in Canada to a subsidiary of Canada Natural Resources Ltd. for $7.25 billion, is also putting more money into renewables. The same day of the divestment announcement CEO Ben van Beurden said the company will increase its investment in renewable energy to $1 billion a year by 2020. While this is a lot of money, it makes up a tiny percentage of the supermajor’s total spend. Shell said it plans to invest about $25 billion in projects in 2017.
Still, the moves are being noticed.
Will more oil and gas companies make similar moves?
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook forecasts that nearly 60% of all new power generation capacity to 2040 will come from renewables. By this time, the IEA said most renewable-based generation will be competitive without subsidies.
In the U.S., where fossil fuels still dominate as they do in other parts of the world, solar power is forecast to be the fastest growing renewable energy source by 2018. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook that total utility-scale capacity will grow by 44% from year-end 2016 to 31 gigawatts at year-end 2018. But it will account for only 1.4% of total utility-scale electricity generation in 2018.
Clearly, renewables are picking up pace, yet they still have a long way to go to even come close to fossil fuels. But some oil and gas companies, seeing potential growth engines in clean energy, could hasten the pace.
Velda Addison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.