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07 September, 2021
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Shell to build giant offshore wind farm in South Korea

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A joint venture has been officially announced to build a large floating offshore wind farm off the coast of South Korea.

Shell, the world's largest oil and gas company, owns 80% of the joint venture called MunmuBaram, with the remaining 20% ​​owned by CoensHexicon. The latter is itself a joint venture between COENS, headquartered in South Korea and the Swedish firm Hexicon.

In a statement earlier this week, Shell said the project is in the "feasibility stage". If built, a 1.4 gigawatt wind farm would be located between 65 and 80 kilometers from Ulsan, a coastal city and industrial center in the southeast of the country.

The water depth for the proposed facility, which will be developed in stages, ranges from 120 to 160 meters. The plant is expected to generate up to 4.65 terawatt-hours of energy per year, providing electricity to more than 1 million households.

“Shell views offshore wind as a key part of a zero-energy system in South Korea and around the world,” Joe Nye, Shell's general manager for offshore wind energy in Asia, said Wednesday.

The formal establishment of MunmuBaram is taking place as the South Korean authorities are aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. The country wants the share of renewables in electricity generation to reach 20% in 2030, up from 7.6% in 2017, and aims to generate 12 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.

Shell is not the only major firm involved in floating offshore wind projects. It was announced last month that RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power have signed an agreement under which both businesses will study the feasibility of a large-scale offshore wind power project off the coast of Japan.

Back in 2017, Norwegian energy company Equinor opened Hywind Scotland, a 30-megawatt facility it calls "the first full-scale floating offshore wind farm."

Floating offshore wind turbines are different from bottom anchored offshore wind turbines that are attached to the seabed. RWE describes floating turbines as “installed on top of floating structures that are anchored to the seabed with mooring lines and anchors”.

One of the advantages of floating turbines is that they can be installed in deeper water compared to bottom-mounted turbines. As the consulting firm Carbon Trust notes, "Sites further offshore ... tend to benefit from more stable wind resources, which means floating wind can provide higher yields."

While Shell is working on renewable energy projects and says it wants to be a zero-emissions energy company by 2050, it remains a major fossil fuel producer. In February, the company confirmed that its total oil production peaked in 2019 and said it expects its total carbon emissions to peak in 2018 at 1.7 gigatons per year.