Offshore oil and gas platforms typically weigh thousands of tons and are built to withstand the force of the wind, but that doesn’t stop them from trembling when rocked by powerful wind gusts. While engineers may not be able to stop the wind from buffeting the platforms, they can use massive wind turbines to put these offshore gusts to use.
The key is to harness the wind’s energy to do work that is currently powered by fossil fuels. Oil-and-gas production platforms depend on water-injection systems to boost recovery; these water-injection systems are generally powered by natural gas or diesel. However, for the past year, participants from both the renewable and oil-and-gas industries have been working together in a joint industry program to develop the concept of using floating wind turbines to power an offshore water-injection system.
For phase one, a Norwegian company, DNV GL, led the WIN WIN (Wind-powered Water Injection) project with a number of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.
Like its natural gas- or diesel-powered counterpart, the wind turbine would provide energy to inject water and increase pressure in the offshore reservoir. Data generated by the initial tests of the WIN WIN project showed that it is technically feasible and a cost-competitive alternative to conventional gas-powered injection systems in offshore areas where the wind can be harnessed.
“For the first time we can now see renewable energy as a large-scale source of power to offshore oil and gas operations,” said DNV CEO Remi Eriksen. “By utilizing the recent developments of floating offshore wind turbines, this concept can offer a clean, reliable and cost-effective alternative for powering water injection in offshore locations.”
Since its launch in 2015, the work has focused on determining whether the concept is technically feasible and if it is competitive, compared to conventional water-injection systems.
The project is now in its second phase, focusing on physical lab testing some of WIN WIN’s electrical systems. That testing, which will occur in the DNV GL power laboratories in Arnhem, the Netherlands, is focused on further developing the technical concept and improving its performance before starting a commercial project.
If all tests are successful, a first full-scale prototype could be rolled out around 2020.
This article first appeared on the Energy Factor on June 7, 2016, and has been updated to reflect recent developments. We will continue to keep you informed of the latest milestones of the WIN WIN program.