DNV warns of fivefold rise in demand for ocean space by 2050

A DNV report has indicated that demand for ocean space will grow fivefold by 2050. It said that plans for coexistence between the shipping industry and offshore energy industry would be essential

It noted that offshore wind would account for 80% of stationary infrastructure at sea by 2050, up from 15% today.

Europe in particular would experience a significant increase in pressure on ocean space with demand particularly strong in the already heavily used areas of the North Sea, Celtic-Biscay Shelf and Baltic Sea.

Greater China will build most offshore infrastructure (covering 112,000 km/sq by 2050), followed by Europe (70,000 km/sq). Ocean installations throughout the world will cover 335,000 km/sq by the middle of the century.

Norway-based DNV’s Spatial Competition Forecast said that aquaculture and oil & gas would make up 13% and 5% of stationary infrastructure.

There is a lot of ocean, but the industrial activity will tend to be focused in places which are already “busy”. The vast expanse of empty ocean between continents will remain vast and empty.

The growth in demand for space will be close to shore, making the space problem more significant than it might appear at first sight.

It was for this reason that DNV developed the Spatial Competition Index, which does not treat the world’s oceans as one homogeneous space.  According to the DNV index, the North Sea ill see greatest competition in Europe, due to the large number of shipping lanes and ports, as well as the strong presences of the fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas and wind industries. Installations for offshore energy and food production will cover 23% of the area between 2km and 50 km from shore, in water depths of less than 50 metres.

In Asia, Greater China’s will account for a third of all global infrastructure built at sea by 2050, mainly due to the sharp increase in offshore wind, which will make up 13% of the region’s electricity production, said DNV. The Indian Subcontinent will see the strongest growth in area covered by stationary infrastructure. This is because the region will experience rapid development of offshore wind projects over vast areas. This will be in ocean regions that historically has seen negligible development of offshore oil and gas or marine aquaculture.

Globally, the area occupied by fixed offshore wind will grow from about 9,000 km/sq today to about 242,000 km/sq by 2050. Floating offshore wind will grow from only a small area today to more than 33,000 km/sq by 2050. DNV said that “compared with bottom-grounded installations, floating offshore wind can potentially ease some of the tensions between offshore wind and fisheries, as it takes renewable energy production out of the way of the fishing fleet operating on shallow banks”.

Bente Pretlove, Ocean Space programme director at DNV, said that “this report underscores the urgent need to balance protection, productivity, and social development objectives for a sustainable Blue Economy. Those developers that are most adept at early stakeholder engagement, spatial efficiency, flexible coexistence, and pursuit of sustainability are likely to be most competitive. Coexistence is essential for the sustainable growth of the Blue Economy.”

DNV has recently received a grant of NOK8.8m from The Research Council of Norway to develop the MARine CO-existence scenario building (MARCO) toolbox.  The project aims to establish a common knowledge basis among ocean stakeholders by introducing new ways of generating scenarios for co-existence in marine spatial planning and development projects in the ocean industries.

The Utsira Nord offshore wind licensing area in Norway will act as one of the case studies.  The partners include offshore wind developer Mainstream Renewable Power, SalMar Aker Ocean, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, and the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association.