Shell has added its weight to a collaborative project which is powering subsea equipment through a combination of wave energy and underwater energy storage off Scotland's Orkney isles.

The Renewables for Subsea Power (RSP) demonstrator project, located five kilometres east of Orkney's main island, uses wave energy converter (WEC) technology fitted with an underwater battery. It aims to show how green technologies can provide reliable low carbon power and communications to subsea equipment of the kind extensively used by the oil and gas industry.

The initiative, now nearing 12 months in the water, connects the Blue X wave energy converter – built by Edinburgh company Mocean Energy – with a Halo underwater battery storage system developed by Aberdeen intelligent energy management specialists Verlume.

The project also aims to provide a cost-effective and lower carbon alternative to umbilical cables, which have long lead times to procure and install, project backers say.

Shell's investment will be within the framework of a programme dedicated to finding, screening, testing, and developing marine renewable energy technologies. This part of the supermajor's R&D portfolio prioritises investments that can boost value while reducing emissions, according to a statement issued by the RSP lead partners today (Monday).

The oil giant will join project leads Mocean Energy and Verlume, alongside industry players Baker Hughes, Serica Energy, Harbour Energy, Transmark Subsea, PTTEP, TotalEnergies and the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC).

For the demonstrator that is currently operational, a 10kW wave-riding demonstrator unit has been connected to Baker Hughes’ subsea controls equipment with servicing by a Transmark autonomous vehicle.

Participants get access to all data and results from the current test programme, alongside a feasibility assessment of the use of RSP technology at a location of their choice.

Ian Crossland, commercial director at Mocean Energy stated: “This new investment by Shell underscores the international interest in our pan-industry project and we look forward to working with them and exploring potential new applications for RSP’s combined technologies.”

Andy Martin, chief commercial officer at Verlume added: “With the Renewables for Subsea Power project being operational now for 10 months, I am proud of what has been achieved both technically and commercially to date, alongside the calibre of the industry partners that are involved....It is great that Shell is now joining the project.

The Orkney deployment is the third phase of the RSP project. Phase two, carried out in 2021, saw the integration of the core technologies in an onshore test environment at Verlume’s operations facility in Aberdeen.

In 2021, Mocean Energy’s Blue X prototype underwent a programme of at-sea testing at the European Marine Energy Centre’s Scapa Flow test site in Orkney, where it generated first power and gathered key data on machine performance and operation.

Verlume states that its seabed battery energy storage system was designed for a harsh underwater environment and is scalable and modular. It's integrated intelligent energy management system, Axonn, is designed to autonomously maximise available battery capacity in real time.

Graeme Rogerson, Head of Net Zero Technology at NZTC said the technologies had demonstrated their effectiveness in delivering low carbon power and communication to offshore subsea infrastructure. "Shell’s investment and the opportunity to continue to test in a real-world environment will help to further progress the technologies,” he stated.

Shell's French peer TotalEnergies, signed up to the RSP project last December.

Growth picture

Data produced by industry body Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) shows a growing number of deployments of WEC technologies.

The OEE has said that deployment of ocean wave and tidal stream energy could reach 2.9GW by 2030 and predicted that 92% of new deployment will be in European waters.

The UK gave its own sector boost last year by increasing the maximum bid price for tidal energy from £202 ($255)/MWh to £261/MWh.

RSP subsea layout portrayal. Photo: Mocean Energy
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