Subsea capability crucial to UK capitalising on floating offshore wind - Neil Gordon

Floating offshore wind is coming of age and it’s not only a major step forward in producing cleaner, greener energy, it also presents one of the greatest industrial opportunities since the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea.
GUH chief exec Neil GordonGUH chief exec Neil Gordon
GUH chief exec Neil Gordon

Much has already been reported about the loss of business for the UK in fixed offshore wind, when

much of the fabrication ended up overseas and many of the developers were not UK-based. A UK

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Government report, four years ago, described the lack of UK firms in the offshore wind supply chain

as a “missed opportunity” and stated that a more strategic approach was needed by government

and industry in the future.

That future is here and, with it, comes a second chance - one that could be even bigger, particularly

for the UK’s world-leading underwater industry. This second-coming is floating offshore wind and,

thanks to our unrivalled underwater ingenuity and engineering, it’s where the UK can really make its

mark if we grasp the opportunity and invest in the advancement of our already world-leading subsea

experience, knowledge, expertise and technology.

The British Energy Security Strategy’s ambition to deliver up to 50GW of power from offshore wind

by 2030 includes 5GW of floating wind, which is anticipated to rapidly increase beyond then.

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By becoming a first-mover in floating offshore wind at scale, the UK will be well-placed to capitalise

on the plethora of floating wind projects that will swiftly follow around the globe.

The scale of what is planned in UK waters, through Scotwind, is unprecedented and signals one of

the biggest industrial opportunities for decades. Crown Estate Scotland outlined almost £25 billion of

planned investment into the Scottish economy across ScotWind projects. The total financial

investment in the supply chain across these projects is £66 billion, of which around 40% is ring-

fenced to be spent in Scotland. Eleven of the 17 projects will be using floating wind turbines and

almost 80% of the £25 billion invested in Scotland will be dedicated to floating wind.

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And this is before we factor in INTOG (Innovation and Targeted Oil & Gas) - another seabed leasing

round which has attracted bidders to apply for the rights to build offshore windfarms for the

purpose of decarbonising oil and gas production in the North Sea by providing clean, green energy to

electrify offshore production facilities. It is anticipated that, due to the urgency in meeting North Sea

Transition Deal targets, INTOG projects could get underway first and pave the way for Scotwind


Determined the country doesn’t lose out this time, the UK Government issued a Request for

Information (RFI) to those who could support offshore floating wind. The responses have informed

government of both the opportunities available and the capabilities and capacity in the supply chain,

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which will help gauge where investment can have the biggest impact.

Furthermore, through the Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme (FLOWMIS) up

to £160 million is being made available to scale-up the deployment of floating offshore wind and to

invest in key areas where we have competitive advantage. With our world-leading status and

marketshare, the subsea industry clearly has an edge here.

Floating offshore wind represents the greatest opportunity for the subsea industry this generation.

The underwater elements of manufacturing, assembling, installing and then operating and

maintaining floating offshore wind projects are eminently transferable from offshore oil and gas,

where subsea expertise was, largely, honed and refined.

From floating foundations to mooring and anchoring systems, as well as dynamic power cables, the

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subsea industry will be integral to delivering floating wind. And it’s not just these obvious, largescale

fabrication and manufacturing elements, it’s also all the skills and technologies, components and

sub-components which will be required further down the line.

Global Underwater Hub, a new, strategic, intelligence-led organsiation to transform the UK’s

£8billion underwater industry, is building a robust case for government to support the subsea

industry as an enabler with the greatest potential to deliver UK capability in floating wind.

But, more importantly, we are working closely with government agencies to identify the key areas of

expertise and technology in which to invest. It’s crucial that the UK and Scottish governments know

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how to support the industrial investment required to ensure the UK supply chain meets the ambition

and pledges made by the successful bidders in Scotwind and INTOG.

A clear supply chain strategy is absolutely critical to ensure that the underwater industry has

visibility of these projects so they are equipped to capitalise on them and that government knows

where and when to invest in order to build out capability and capacity and accelerate the massive

scale-up that will be required to take full advantage of the biggest industrial opportunity in the

North Sea in decades.

Neil Gordon, chief executive of the Global Underwater Hub

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