Renewables were a bright spot in otherwise bleak third quarter financial results of Norwegian oil major Equinor that is looking forward to a billion-dollar gain from an offshore wind farm-down in the US.

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The company posted adjusted, pre-tax earnings of $45m during the third quarter of 2020 in its New Energy Solutions segment, including costs related to the maturation of new projects. That compares to an adjusted pre-tax loss of $25m in the same period a year ago.

“We continue to capture value from our renewable energy portfolio and position ourselves for profitable growth in value chains for carbon capture and storage,” chief executive Eldar Sætre said.

“This quarter we announced our partnership with BP, including the divestment of half of our share of offshore wind projects Empire Wind and Beacon Wind in the US.”

Equinor through the divestment to BP of half of its stake in the more than 2GW Empire Wind project and the more than 2.4GW Beacon Wind project off the US expects is expected to book a gain of $1.1bn during the first quarter of 2021.

Sætre added: “We are progressing H2H Saltend, a project for large-scale production of hydrogen in the UK, and in Norway we are progressing the Northern Lights project as part of creating full value chains for carbon capture, transportation and storage.”

Future offshore wind major

Sætre next month will be succeeded by Anders Opedal as CEO, who has pledged to speed up the company’s transition from an oil major into a broader and greener energy company with a renewable energy generation capacity of 12-16GW by 2035, and a focus on offshore wind.

The company last month had handed in bids (for Empire Wind phase 2 and Beacon Wind) in New York’s second offshore wind solicitation that called for proposals for up to 2.5GW of additional capacity. If successful, the concessions could add to Equinor’s already massive European offshore wind pipeline that includes a stake in the giant 3.6GW Dogger Bank development in the UK’s part of the North Sea.

Until the huge projects are built, the company’s renewable energy output remains modest.

Equinor’s renewable power production receded slightly to 319 gigawatt hours during the third quarter of 2020, from 342GWh a year earlier. That was relatively little when considering that the company still produced 1.91 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) alone during the quarter.

But as oil prices have plunged amid lower demand following the Covid-19 pandemic this year, the company’s core exploration and production business was loss-making outside Norway in the period, contributing to a net loss of $2.12bn during the third quarter for the entire company.