Shell and Orsted executives backed a “perfect opportunity” for offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico, in a boost to the region’s prospects following a low-key reaction to a recent US government call for interest.

Executives from the global oil supermajor and Denmark-based offshore wind market-leader told an offshore energy conference panel that the Gulf – which is set to lag the US east and west coasts as a focus for turbine deployment – could offer unique benefits thanks to its location and specific market conditions.

Zach Finucane, a project manager and structural engineer for Orsted – which is developing some of America’s largest offshore wind projects off the northeast coast – said access to oil & gas-related infrastructure helps make “the value proposition in the Gulf of Mexico a good one”.

“The winds aren’t as consistent as they are in the northeast and the soil is a little looser – but that doesn’t mean it’s not feasible,” said Finucane, whose company is developing major wind and solar assets onshore in Texas.

“Once you start getting further south near Brownsville [in Texas] there’s a perfect opportunity for offshore wind,” he told the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston.

Shell’s general manager for offshore wind America, James Cotter, told the event the Gulf is already a “heartland” of production for the group, with potential for different energy vectors beyond simply exporting power to the grid onshore.

“The Gulf of Mexico is a great case in point [for alternative approaches]. Can you produce hydrogen offshore that can then be blended into existing pipelines? Can you have own use [of renewable power] for assets?

“The Gulf of Mexico is already an energy basin, I think it will stay that. I think there’s a lot of infrastructure offshore that can certainly be used for co-use or co-location of other assets.”

Cotter added: “It’s probably one of the opportunity areas that’s left to transmission in its own right, because there are other opportunities for the power that can come from offshore wind.”

Lukewarm response

The upbeat comments came soon after an initial request for interest (RFI) issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) over the potential for Gulf of Mexico drew a lukewarm response.

Only one global developer – Germany’s RWE – commented in detail during the 45-day RFI, which mainly drew feedback from industry bodies and other groups.

BOEM, the arm of the US Department of Energy that oversees development on the country’s outer continental shelf, has calculated there is 1.9TW of offshore wind potential in the Gulf’s waters, of which more than 500GW could be commercially developed for electricity generation.

The session on offshore wind at OTC saw oil & gas players line up to outline how they could help drive the US towards Joe Biden’s target of 30GW by 2030 and beyond, thanks to entrenched advantages ranging from a skilled offshore workforce to a long track record in floating platform technology, which is set to play a crucial role in huge developments in deep waters off California.

The sector is already heavily involved in the early stages of the US build-out, with Equinor and BP leading New York’s offshore wind charge and Shell advancing east coast projects in conjunction with power utilities EDPR and Engie.