When Shell pulled out of London Array offshore wind project in 2008, it probably didn’t realise it would mean more than 10 years in the UK offshore wind wilderness.
But according to accounts at the time, many in the sector felt scorned – some were downright angry.
Shell was eventually bought out of the £2 billion project by Masdar, but a message had filtered through that the company was perhaps no longer looking at offshore wind as viable option.
Danish firm Dong Energy, one of the major partners in the 341-turbine project, is now Orsted – arguably the biggest offshore wind firm in the world.
Orsted sold off its entire oil and gas business to Ineos in 2017 and now plies its trade in wind energy full-time.
Fast forward several years and Shell was passed over in favour of EDF Energy to take over ownership of the 54-turbine Neart Na Goaithe (NnG) offshore wind project in Scotland’s Outer Firth of Forth.
While just two weeks ago the firm was beaten to the punch by Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation for Dutch utility Eneco, who operate a number of Highland and Aberdeenshire onshore wind projects.
But in September, Shell’s energy transition manager Joanna Coleman revealed that the oil and gas giant was once again targeting the UK for future offshore wind development – both in floating wind and fixed bottom.
Speaking at last month’s WindEurope Conference in Copenhagen, Shell’s vice-president for offshore wind Dorine Bosman said: “Recently, I was asked why Shell entered offshore wind, why are we a newcomer to wind? Let me address that first…
“Shell is known for oil and gas. After our long heritage, it would be hard not to be.
“Yet, Shell was the first international oil company in the world to enter offshore wind almost 20 years ago.
“We have a 50% share in Noordzeewind the first commercial offshore windfarm in The Netherlands, operating since 2006.
“As the market changed around us, our portfolio has adapted, paused, and restarted over the years and now spans nearly 5GW including projects such as Borssele 34 – currently installing foundations offshore, leases being developed, and new demonstration technologies.”
Yet, Shell still has not meaningfully re-entered the UK wind sector to date.
With its recent acquisition of French floating wind developer Eolfi and US joint venture with Portugal’s EDP Renewables in the Mayflower project off Massachusetts, Shell may now be looking to build up its reputation in the sector globally before it looks to re-enter the somewhat chilly waters of the UK wind sector.