The Atlantica Centre for Energy was a breakfast sponsor for the Smart Energy event held in Halifax, April 17-18, 2023. Atlantic invited Michael Galvin, the Director of Hydrogen and Sustainable Fuels with the Simply Blue Group, to present “Lessons Learned from Europe and Fundamental Principles for a Smooth Transition to a Clean Energy Future in Atlantic Canada.  

Michael is a chartered chemical engineer with over 17 years’ experience in management, operations, business development, project delivery and commercial experience. He joined the Simply Blue Team to manage their Green Hydrogen and Sustainable Fuels portfolio, where his mandate is to develop environmentally friendly fuel production facilities of the future, including Power-to-X, green hydrogen and biofuels.  

Irving Oil and Simply Blue Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September, 2022 with a commitment to explore opportunities related to the potential development of an integrated renewable energy hub at the Irving Oil Whitegate Refinery in Cork, Ireland. Simply Blue has also established a presence in Canada and has an office in Halifax.  

Here are a few key excerpts from his recent keynote address at the Smart Energy conference in Halifax, which we felt warranted inclusion in the May Atlantica newsletter.

Michael Gavin, Director of Hydrogen and Sustainable Fuels

About Simply Blue Group and the transition from an oil refiner to hydrogen and sustainable fuels 

“Simply Blue Group is probably best known as an offshore wind developer, our headquarters is in Cork, Ireland. We have a global offshore wind pipeline of over 10GW in development in 10 different jurisdictions globally.  

Collaboration across all of our international project teams, and the depth and diversity of knowledge and experience represented, is at the heart of why Simply Blue Group has been so successful. 

At this point you might be asking yourself what is an oil refiner doing working for an offshore wind developer, and that is a good question!  When I started to work for Simply Blue Group, I knew there was an opportunity to join some dots. To capture the abundant wind resources and convert it to electricity and to renewable liquid fuels that will be vital in our future energy system, and to think beyond the electricity grid.” 

Why is Simply Blue Group now focused on Atlantic Canada? 

“Offshore Atlantic Canada has some of the very best wind in the world, with average wind speeds of over 10m/s, and some of the best capacity factors we’ve ever seen.  

Atlantic Canada has a relatively low population density, meaning there is more renewable energy potential than there is local market demand.  

Atlantic Canada has the potential to harness their wind energy and convert it into renewable fuels and export their surplus and compete with any country in the world.  

Atlantic Canada is also well placed as it is close to markets on both sides of the ocean, Europe and USA.  

You have multiple ice-free deep-water ports.  

There’s enough land for development for industrial parks and infrastructure — something we are short of over the pond.  

You have a highly trained and skilled workforce and a real pedigree in oil and gas and energy.  

You have a long maritime history.  

And Canada is respected all over the world for being reliable, trustworthy, and friendly and a good place to do business.” 

Mick’s 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts 

Now in true Engineering and Project Development fashion, I’d like to share some lessons we have learned from experiences in Europe and elsewhere around the world that might help in Atlantic Canada.  

Some of these lessons have been hard lessons, that you don’t need to repeat over here.”  

  • The Do’s 
  1. “Do respect local communities and the traditions and connections that people have with the land and sea. We need to responsibly develop projects that coexist with the environment and local stakeholders as we create new clean projects and economic opportunities. Engage early and often.” 
  2. “Do provide certainty in regulations and the path to site control as quickly as possible for offshore wind and renewable energy projects. Remember, every country is trying to do exactly the same thing at the same time. There isn’t an endless amount of investment out there, and investment craves certainty and risk reduction. Unfortunately, we have seen investment leave some jurisdictions we are involved in, countries with great wind and shallow water but lacking regulatory clarity. My advise, is take a phased approach, with the aim of learning and improving with each phase. But don’t delay, get started!”
  3. “Do develop the right skills in the workforce. There are going to be thousands of jobs and we are already nervous about who is going to fill them. I know I’m repeating myself here, but every country is trying to do the same thing at the same time. There are only so many people that are capable of filling these jobs.” 
  4. “Do work together and share lessons. The scale of these renewable energy projects is truly massive. Let’s try and minimise mistakes, we owe it to society who are counting on us to deliver. So my message to developers is, don’t isolate yourselves. The likes of Atlantica Centre for Energy, Marine Renewables Canada are fantastic examples of industry representative bodies. Be open and share experiences with the group. A rising tide raises all boats!” 
  5. “Do look at ways to integrate and use existing infrastructure to get started. This is about maximising what we already have. Be creative with the existing electricity grid. Consider hybrid electricity grid connections. See where you can repurpose existing oil and gas infrastructure such as storage and marine jetties. See if you can identify any redundant gas pipelines that could be repurposed for hydrogen storage.” 
  •  The Don’ts  
  1.  “Don’t wait to prepare your ports and supply chains.  Across Europe, we are already seeing the challenges of not enough space or capacity in our ports, not enough suitable ports for wind turbine assembly and integration. This is going to become a major bottleneck in some European countries.   Kudos to the ports leaders here who are already thinking ahead and preparing plans, but they will need support until they get commitments from a windfarm project. In order to maximise local jobs and benefits, Atlantic Canada offshore wind projects need to be assembled in Atlantic Canada. But without financial support for your ports, a chicken and an egg scenario emerges.” 
  2. “Don’t wait for the everyone else to do it first, in the hope to learn from all of their lessons and mistakes. We have a saying in Simply Blue Group: ‘we don’t want to be first movers, but we do want to be early movers’. Due to the constraints of the supply chain, try to start doing projects as early as is practical, and join the supply chain queue as soon as possible otherwise you’ll find yourself at the back of it. And from what we are seeing in Europe, it’s a long queue.” 
  3. “Don’t expect to get to net zero without making some mistakes. Sure, we must try and minimise them, but mistakes will be made, so be forgiving. Everyone is trying to do their best, from policy makers to project developers to local communities. The biggest mistake we can make is that we would choose to do nothing.”
  4. “Don’t think too small. These renewable projects, like offshore wind and green hydrogen projects are big infrastructural projects. But they need scale in order to make them efficient and economic, and there needs to be a clear plan and pipeline of projects in order to stand-up and sustain a local supply chain. Turbine manufacturers are no longer interested in talking to offshore wind developers about 100MW projects, they want to talk about many hundreds of MWs and GW orders.  In the UK, when they deployed fixed bottom wind at scale in the 5 years between 2014 & 2019, they saw a 70% drop in cost. We are also seeing the dramatic effect of scale on the economics of projects. The bigger the better. So think big!” 
  5. “Don’t be shy about telling the world, and particularly Europe about how great Canada is, and how much potential there is to harness energy for the European market. In Europe we seem to hear an awful lot about the likes of Australia, South America, North Africa, and how they are going to power Europe. I don’t hear Canada mentioned enough, and knowing how great your potential is I think there might be an opportunity to shout a little louder.”