ABU DHABI - The world’s largest and most advanced power cable-laying vessel has commenced operations on the $3.8 billion (AED13.95 billion) strategic project by ADNOC and Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA) to power and significantly decarbonise ADNOC’s offshore production operations.

The innovative project will see the development and operation of a first-of-its-kind high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) subsea transmission system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It will power ADNOC’s offshore production operations with cleaner and more efficient energy, delivered through the Abu Dhabi onshore power grid, operated by TAQA’s wholly owned subsidiary, Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (TRANSCO).

The project will require some 1,000 kilometres (km) of HVDC cables bundled with fibre optics, and the transmission system will have a total installed capacity of 3.2 Gigawatts (GW), with two independent sub-sea HVDC links and converter stations.

The cable-laying vessel, the Leonardo da Vinci, owned by the Prysmian Group, has arrived in the UAE from Europe for an initial four-month period. Operating between Mirfa on the western Abu Dhabi coastline and the offshore Zakum cluster, a distance equivalent to that between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Leonardo da Vinci will lay bundled cabling along the first 134km route, before returning later to lay cables along a second 141km route.

Commercial operations of the offshore electrification project are set to commence in 2025. The project is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of ADNOC’s offshore operations by up to 50%, replacing existing offshore gas turbine generators with more sustainable power sources available on the Abu Dhabi onshore power network.

More than 50% of the value of this project will flow back into the UAE’s economy under ADNOC’s In-Country Value (ICV) program.

The project was initially announced in December 2021. It is funded through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) – a dedicated company jointly owned by ADNOC and TAQA (30% stake each), and a consortium comprised of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), Japan’s Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Électricité de France (EDF). Led by KEPCO, the consortium holds a combined 40% stake in the project on a build, own, operate and transfer basis.

ADNOC’s electrification initiatives extend across its operations. In January 2022, ADNOC became the first major oil and gas company to source all its onshore grid power from solar and nuclear clean energy through a partnership with Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC). As a result of this partnership, ADNOC abated around 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2022.

ADNOC is accelerating the decarbonisation of its operations with an increased allocation of $23 billion (AED84.4 billion) to low-carbon solutions and decarbonisation technologies as it works towards net zero by 2045.

Since December 2021, TAQA has pursued several major HVDC projects, in line with its refreshed growth targets for 2030 to expand its Transmission and Distribution business. In December 2023, TAQA signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the possibility of becoming one of the shareholders in a project to develop a 900 km high-voltage direct current electricity interconnector project between Greece and Cyprus.

Prior to that, TAQA announced a strategic MoU for a feasibility study of an HVDC infrastructure project in Romania. Earlier in 2023, TAQA invested GBP25 million (AED113 million) into Xlinks First Limited, which aims to lay the world’s longest HVDC subsea cables between the UK and Morocco to transport renewable power to the UK.