Energy-, aquaculture- and transport-infrastructures are increasingly being established offshore. Moving operations further away from the coast, makes both logistics and operations become more complex and challenging. Moreover, the development and operation of marine infrastructure exert environmental pressure on the oceans, threatening marine ecosystems. Multipurpose offshore platforms are a way to address these issues and present a viable solution to meet these growing demands through the integration of various user functions in a single unit. They will provide significant benefits in terms of shared use of infrastructure (foundations, moorings, energy transfer, etc.), resources (staff, material, energy, etc.) and services (monitoring, maintenance, etc.)1.
Multipurpose offshore platforms may combine offshore energy generation such as wind, wave, solar, marine currents and ocean thermal energy conversion, aquaculture, leisure and transport in different degrees and constellations2. For example, harvest wind and wave power, using part of the energy on-site for multiple applications such as a multi-trophic aquaculture farm, and convert on-site the excess energy into hydrogen that can be stored and shipped to shore as a green energy carrier or sold to visiting ships as fuel, keeping them clean and emissions-free.Opportunities and market impacts
Offshore platforms that combine many functions, sharing infrastructure, resources and services could offer significant benefits in terms of economic performance2. The integration of multiple activities in one platform will also contribute to reducing the footprint of the operations and thereby optimising maritime spatial planning.
The forecast for massive development of offshore marine infrastructures such as wind farms, marine aquaculture farms and wave energy technologies will cause increasing pressures on the anthropogenic exploitation of the oceans and therefore needs to be implemented in an integrated and sustainable way in order to limit the impacts on fragile marine ecosystems3. Multipurpose platforms can reduce the impact on the environment compared to several single-use platforms.
Multipurpose offshore platforms have been tested in a couple of locations. For example, within the EU, this development is being promoted through research programmes2,4. Fully commercial developments will probably take off in the mid 2020’s.Risks and uncertainties
The realisation of multipurpose offshore platforms requires different actors to co-operate which could slow down the development and making implementation difficult. In addition, the different technologies and sectors are of differing maturity level, which could be a barrier for development. Work will be required to optimise the design and bring together the right combination and scale of, for example, marine energy and other revenue generating activities5.
The governance issues that arises when combining operations from different industrial sectors as described above adds to uncertainty and could potentially slow down implementation6. In many areas there is a need to align laws, regulations, and policies across sectors. Combining different operations from the same industrial sector is easier from a governance perspective.
(Header image courtesy of Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN))
Main author: Erik Hektor
Editor: Peter Lovegrove
- Mermaid project. Innovative multi-purpose offshore platforms. 2015.
- Leira, B.J. Multi-purpose offshore-platforms: past, present and future research and developments. Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering OMAE2017
- Entropi project. Could Multi-Use Platforms at Sea offer one solution for ocean sustainability. 2019.
- Quevedo et al. Multi-use offshore platform configurations in the scope of the FP7 TROPOS project.
- OPEC project. Offshore platform for energy competitiveness project conclusions. 2018.
- Stuiver et al. The governance of Multi-Use Platforms at Sea for energy production and aquaculture; obstacles and challenges for policy makers in European Seas.