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Global assessment of historical, current and forecast ocean energy infrastructure: Implications for marine space planning, sustainable design and end-of-engineered-life management

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 154


Thousands of structures are currently installed in our oceans to help meet our global energy needs. This number is set to increase with the transition to renewable energy, due to lower energy yield per structure, growing energy demand and greater and more diverse use of ocean space (e.g. for food, industrial or scientific activity). A clear and comprehensive picture of the spatial and temporal distribution of ocean energy assets is crucial to inform marine spatial planning, sustainable design of ocean infrastructure and end-of-engineered-life management, to prevent an exponentially increasing asset base becoming an economic and environmental burden. Here we define the spatial and temporal dimensions of the challenge that lies before us through creation of a comprehensive global dataset of past, current and forecast ocean energy infrastructure and offshore energy re-sources, both hydrocarbon and wind, for the period 1960–2040. The data is collected together for the first time and made available in the public domain through an interactive online map. The resulting oceanscape provides insight into the type, quantity, density and geographic centres of the accumulating asset base, which in turn enables informed consideration of how marine space alongside design and  end-of-engineered-life of  ocean infrastructure can be managed responsibly and sustainably.  

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What is the life cycle of offshore infrastructure?
  • What is the current distribution of ocean infrastructure and known offshore resources for hydrocarbons and wind ?
  • How has the installation of offshore infrastructure evolved regarding both oil and gas and offshore wind production?

Implementation Context:

Thousands of pieces of infrastructure have been installed offshore, both for oil and gas production and renewable energy, some of them dating back several decades. The increasing global population will drive an increased demand for energy, which will have to be decarbonised considering environmental challenges (e.g., climate change).

Aspects / Objectives:

This paper provides a set of data on the spatial and temporal distribution of energy infrastructure in oceans worldwide from 1940 to 2040.


A data review on past, present and forecast energy infrastructure was drafted for the period 1960–2040, from open access and commercial sources, augmented through reference to individual development project websites and documents associated with the planning process. The database was analysed in relation to contextual data and visualised within a geographical information system (ArcGIS Pro). Kernel density analysis was undertaken to provide easy to interpret time-slice outputs.

Main Outputs / Results:

An interactive map was developed in the framework of this project and is freely accessible. It enables the exploration of development of offshore energy infrastructure from 1960 to 2040, by infrastructure type or geographical location.


This practice provides information on all offshore infrastructure at international scale.

Responsible Entity:

Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies in Intelligent & Resilient Ocean Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Southampton, UK

Costs / Funding Source:

This project received funding through a Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Research Development Fund award ‘Environmental and social consequences of decommissioning offshore infrastructure’2. Susan Gourvenec is supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering under the Chairs in Emerging Technologies Scheme, Fraser Sturt is supported by the award of a Philip Leverhulme Prize.

Contact person:

S. Gourvenec: (susan[dot]gourvenec[at]southampton[dot]ac[dot]uk)