By Joyce Lee and Florence Tan
DAEGU, South Korea (Reuters) - Norway's Equinor ASA plans to make a final investment decision on what would be its first offshore wind farm in South Korea as early as 2024, and is now considering a third, larger project in the country, the head of its local unit said.
"We are looking to build a portfolio of four to six gigawatts (GW) in Korea and that's going to support Equinor's ambition ... in energy transition," Jacques-Etienne Michel, president of Equinor South Korea, told Reuters on the sidelines of the 2022 World Gas Conference in Daegu, South Korea.
The oil and gas producer aims to diversify its business and become a "global offshore wind major" that produces renewable power from turbines in the United States, Europe and Asia.
The first Korean project, known as 'Firefly', is undergoing environmental impact assessment and a final investment decision will be made in 2024 or 2025, Michel said. Firefly is a planned semi-submersible wind farm spanning 150 square kilometres (58 sq. miles) off the coast of the city of Ulsan.
The 800 megawatt (MW) project, expected to cost several billion dollars and finish commissioning in 2028 or 2029, is wholly owned by Equinor but the company is looking for partners, he said.
Equinor is also in talks with Korean firms to produce wind turbines and cables from scratch for the project.
"It's a chance for Korea to be a prime mover and to build a new industry," Michel said.
The country aims to get 20-25% of its power output from renewables in 2030, up from 6.6% in 2020.
Equinor has a second, 200 MW wind farm project offshore Ulsan, in partnership with state-run Korea National Oil Corp and local power generator Korea East-West Power. The project was awarded a licence to generate electricity in November.
The company is also exploring a third project, a 1.5 GW wind farm project in the southwest region of South Korea, Michel said.
Besides South Korea, Equinor is also looking into similar projects in Japan and Vietnam, he said.
Equinor plans to install 12-16 GW of net renewable energy capacity, mainly offshore wind, by 2030, up from 0.7 GW in 2021, and aims to become a leading developer of floating turbines which can harness wind from deeper waters.
It developed the world's first floating offshore wind farm off Scotland in 2017, and plans to use floating turbines to power its oil platforms off Norway.
By focusing early on offshore wind, Equinor has won accreage for large projects off Britain, the United States and Poland, but suffered several settbacks this year.
It came away empty handed from the Scotwind tender in Scotland, just across the North Sea from its home market, and was outbid in a tender for offshore wind accreage off New York and New Jersey.
The company has said it could be more selective as its project pipeline already covers about two-thirds of its 2030 capacity target, and it also plans to take part in the first offshore wind power tender in Norway.
(Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis in Oslo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Jacqueline Wong)