On the 24 August 2021, Marine Scotland released The Offshore Wind Energy for Innovation Projects and Targeted Oil and Gas Decarbonisation (INTOG) Planning Specification and Context report for public consultation. The consultation exercise is seeking comments and views from the industry about smaller scale innovative offshore wind projects and those that could contribute towards electrification of offshore oil and gas platforms, helping Scotland towards its target of achieving net zero emissions by 2045.
The Scottish Government has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2045 and recognises offshore wind as a key part of its strategy. Back in October, Marine Scotland published The Sectoral Marine Plan 2020 setting out planning options for large-scale, commercial offshore wind projects. The INTOG Report builds on this, by announcing the intention to create planning options to support offshore projects that are smaller scale, innovative or focused on decarbonising existing Oil and Gas infrastructure. The Report also sets out the intention to develop a route to award of a seabed lease from Crown Estate Scotland for these projects.
The report is clear that it is not a full-scale commercial offshore or leasing round in the mould of the Sectoral Marine Plan and recent “ScotWind” inaugural leasing round. Instead, it is focused on ‘Innovation’ and ‘Target Oil and Gas’ offshore wind projects.
The report is looking to develop planning options for smaller projects below 100MW; and for ‘Innovative’ projects, those involving new technology that may provide unique insight or wider improvements in offshore wind. It also seeks to create a mechanism for these projects to gain access to suitable seabed for test and demonstration purposes.
The report also invites input in developing planning options for projects that will decarbonise Scotland’s oil and gas sector by powering it through renewable energy. Projects up to 4GW that are directed towards electrification of the Oil and Gas infrastructure will be considered. While conversion of energy to other fuels such as green hydrogen may be a component, this cannot be the primary purpose of the project.
The report will consider how to support these projects under the wider aim of maximising economic, investment and employment opportunities in Scotland.
The report aims to identify areas with the best suitability for future development. The plan development process will take into consideration the economic, social and environmental impact of offshore windfarms, as well as relevant legislation.
To assist in this task, the report includes a series of constraint maps that consider factors such as density of shipping vessel activity, seal population density and cod spawning areas. The report invites engagement from marine stakeholders in order to refine the areas of search for INTOG projects.
Crown Estate Scotland (CES) will be responsible for administering the leasing process. The report suggests that INTOG projects will be able to apply for seabed leases before the publication of the final INTOG plan, with the caveat that only projects that fall under the final INTOG plan will be awarded Option Agreements.
The findings of the report consultation will help Scottish Ministers determine the Initial Plan framework. This should be published in Winter 2021. Following this, Crown Estate Scotland will prepare and publish lease documents and open applications for seabed leasing. INTOG Projects will be subject to Marine Scotland Plan Assessments and ultimately, Option Agreements for INTOG projects may be offered by CES in Summer 2023.
The consultation on this report and the Areas of Search will be open until 20 October 2021. Responses can be provided here or by email to [email protected].