Offshore wind advocates see Gulf of Mexico opportunity

Published on
September 3, 2021
Offshore wind advocates see the Gulf of Mexico as a next major step for developing the U.S. industry.

Building on moves by the U.S. state of Louisiana, offshore wind advocates see the Gulf of Mexico as a next major step for developing the U.S. industry – possibly including re-use of offshore oil and gas platforms and pipelines as assets for an allied “green hydrogen” industry.

“We know offshore wind takes a long time to get off the ground … we’ve got to move fast,” said Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the industry group Business Network for Offshore Wind, on 24 August at the International Partnering Forum conference in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.

BNOW’s Gulf of Mexico working group conferred by video, with officials participating from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ administration and from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which has been working since June on Bel Edwards’ request to seek commercial interest in developing wind power off his state.

The agency is looking into developing a swath of the gulf outer continental shelf out to 4,000-foot depth for potential siting of fixed-foundation and floating wind turbines.

“We are at the very beginning of that process,” BOEM Supervisor Tershara Matthews said.

The agency is reviewing comments from stakeholders – along with some proprietary information offered by potential wind developers – to assess its next steps, according to Matthews.

A preliminary schedule recently released by BOEM calls for possibly offering leases for bid in December 2022, according to BOEM Field Special Assistant Mike Celata. There has interest in both fixed and floating turbines, Celata said, with slightly more interest in fixed development on the shallower shelf. Most of that is focused west of Lafayette, Louisiana, with “overlapping interest” by different developers, he said.

“[But] it may slip … There is a lot of work to be done,” especially with talking to commercial fishing interests in the region to reduce potential conflicts, Celata said. “It’s clearly something we have to do to have a successful auction in December 2022,” he said.

The Bel Edwards administration and state resource agencies are already in discussions with the shrimp industry, said Harry Vorhoff, who works on the governor’s energy policy.

Another emerging interest is potential re-use of older oil and gas platforms and pipelines for producing hydrogen fuel with wind power, said Joseph Orgeron, business and technology developer for 2nd Wind Marine LLC, in Galliano, Louisiana.

“I really don’t want to hurt the 22 December target date” for lease sales, Orgeron said. “But hydrogen production could be an attractive path for future conversion of existing leases to renewable energy. The majority of the non-majors out of Houston have expressed interest.”

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Director Jason Lanclos said state officials see huge opportunity for the state’s maritime and manufacturing industries with offshore wind, both on the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

The group discussed strategies for generating more enthusiasm in neighboring states as well.

“I think we’re suffering a little bit from the stigma of East Coast wind development with kicking the can down the road” with long reviews and delays, said consultant Doug Campbell of Houston, Texas-based DRC Inc./Oil States.

States bordering the Gulf of Mexico need to plan to add wind and renewables to their longtime offshore oil and gas portfolios, “so this human capital that’s in place” for offshore work can be used, Houston, Texas-based Bokalis Offshore Energy Senior Vice President of Marine Services Rob Erikson said.

Reporting by Kirk Moore

Graphic courtesy of BOEM

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