Japan’s largest oil refiner, Eneos, has inked a deal with offshore wind developer BW Ideol to build a commercial-scale floating project off the Asian island nation using the latter’s ‘damping pool’ platform design.

Announcement of the joint development agreement with Eneos – part of the consortium which last month won the auction for the 16.8MW Goto Islands deepwater demonstrator off Japan – did not specify the size of the planned project or the location.

BW Ideol’s floating wind concept has been trialled off France and Japan, the only technology so far to see outings in two regions.

“This collaboration confirms once again that our two-leg strategy of providing a proven technology and investing in the co-development of a project is extremely relevant in the context of a fast-accelerating new industry,” said Paul De La Guérivière, CEO of BW Ideol.

“We are pleased to keep on building a multi-gigawatt project portfolio in Japan and add this project to our existing agreements for commercial-scale projects with other leading Japanese developers and utilities, confirming our unique position in this strategic market.”

The two companies said they would “collaborate very closely and contribute to the early commercialisation of cost-competitive floating offshore wind power in Japan” through the announced project.

The Goto Islands project is the first award under Japan’s new General Waters programme – designed to drive major offshore wind construction off the Asian nation – that kicked off in earnest this year with entries to a first tender for large-scale fixed-bottom offshore wind that aims to kick-start a 10GW build-out by 2030 and up to 45GW by 2040.

The fixed-bottom round has attracted the interest of major global players such as Orsted, Equinor and RWE, as well as big local corporations including some of the Goto Islands partners.

Large-scale offshore wind is already under construction under previous Japanese legislation to open development in port areas, including the 220MW Hibikinada project off Kitakyushu City, but the potential for floating development is “three times greater than fixed”, noted BW Ideol.

“Floating offshore wind has the potential to substantially contribute to achieving carbon neutrality and reducing the cost of energy transition.”

Eneos is on the cusp of rapid expansion of its renewable energy project portfolio, which currently encompasses 46MW of solar, 4MW of wind and 68MW of biomass across Japan.

Floating wind power projects totalling more than 26GW are on track to be turning by 2035, according to latest figures from Quest FWE, with the fleet expected to grow “exponentially” as the first wave of utility-scale developments now taking shape internationally are boosted by transitioning oil companies and ever-improving economics