How an Offshore Drilling Contractor Ended Up in the Renewables Business

Credit: Odfjell OceanWind
Credit: Odfjell OceanWind

A little over a year ago, Norwegian offshore drilling company Odfjell Drilling announced its entry into the offshore renewables space, through its investment in Oceanwind AS, a company working on developing harsh environment floating offshore wind turbines. The investment gave birth to Odfjell OceanWind. In the article below, Simen Lieungh Chairman of the Board of Odfjell Oceanwind and CEO of Odfjell Drilling provides the rationale behind the drilling firm's renewables push.

Since the early seventies, the Odfjell brand has been synonymous with a strong vision and flair for opportunities offshore. In 1969, Abraham Odfjell stated that he could envision “rigs like beads on a string along the Norwegian coast.” Today we can clearly see the future, and the future is floating wind power.

The same instinct and foresight that made Odfjell Drilling founder Abraham Odfjell invest in Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) fifty years ago is what is driving Odfjell Oceandwind’s floating wind solutions forward today. Mr. Odfjell was convinced there would be oil on the Norwegian continental shelf, but no one could be certain before the first commercial discovery, Ekofisk in that same year, 1969.  

Odfjell Oceanwind is rewriting the playbook for offshore energy with the Mobile Offshore Wind Unit (MOWU) concept, using floating wind power as a renewable energy source for oil and gas platforms. Together with the WindGrid™ hybrid system, the MOWUs will allow operators to reduce CO₂-emissions by 60-70% compared to power generation from gas turbines only. This is equivalent to the CO₂--savings you would get if you connect the platforms to the European electricity grid.  

With MOWUs as a floating wind power supplier, any platform can have a power supply largely independent of fossil fuel, disconnected from the power system onshore, and ready to be installed now.

The Odfjell legacy

The MOWUs are supported by a strong offshore legacy from Odfjell Drilling, so we reap the benefits of knowledge from the world’s foremost harsh environment offshore drilling contractor.  

As a member of the Odfjell family, drawing on fifty years of experience and know-how means that Odfjell Oceanwind has had a head start in the race for commercially viable floating wind solutions.  

Tried and tested in The North Sea

So, what is this knowledge and experience that we draw on?  

Firstly, it’s knowing how to make an asset perform to the highest demands in the harshest of conditions. The technology and solutions that go into our rigs have been tried and tested in the North Sea off the Norwegian coast since the 1970s.

Odfjell Drilling’s number one position in harsh environment drilling has been manifested several times by our clients selecting the “Deepsea” rigs when they need to face extraordinary challenges, or when the highest performance is needed. 

One example is TotalEnergies, choosing to sail the Deepsea Stavanger on two occasions from the North Sea to the Agulhas Current outside South Africa to drill in some of the worst conditions a rig has ever operated. Credit: Odfjell OceanWind 

It’s also about having the experience to choose a floating structure design that can operate safely and efficiently in harsh environments. Fifty years of learning means we know what is important to emphasize in all the inevitable trade-offs that are involved in a hull design process.

No rig can perform without a stable foundation, and the skill transfer from many generations of rig designs, and decades of offshore operations, ensures resilience in every structure.

High performance at the right cost  

To maximize the performance, while minimizing the lifecycle cost, rigs need continuous attention. Odfjell Oceanwind is a world leader in operating floating constructions. This has been proven over decades, through operational uptime, special periodic survey cost, and operational costs in general.  

The foundation for this performance is having the right philosophies and systems in place for QHSE, operations, maintenance and inspection and SPS execution, just to mention some. Odfjell Oceanwind can draw on decades of insight into these crucial issues.

Managing financial risk

In recent years, many (if not most) of Odfjell Drilling’s peers have gone through Chapter 11 processes, destroying billions of dollars in shareholder value. In contrast, Odfjell Drilling has survived these challenging periods, continued to secure work for its rigs, delivered value to its customers, and stayed loyal to commitments towards lenders. This has kept the company out of trouble and is a result of a strong work ethic, always striving for the better and not least financial discipline, and moderate risk-taking.  

So, when Odfjell saw the vast amounts of value that was transferrable between traditional drilling and floating ocean wind, we took inspiration from Abraham Odfjell and ventured into floating wind power. With most of the know-how already in place, the remaining expertise specific for wind power was secured through the investment in Oceanwind in 2020.

The drive, the vision, and the flair that was a mainstay in Odfjell Drilling from the beginning, lives on with Odfjell Oceanwind.  

For a company founded on energy sources, wind power is a natural continuation of the work Odfjell Drilling has been known for since 1973.

About the author:

Simen Lieungh is Chairman of the Board of Odfjell Oceanwind and CEO of Odfjell Drilling. He has held various senior management positions in the oil and gas industry, including that of CEO of Aker Solutions. Lieungh holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

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