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OTC Technology Review: Oceaneering

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Oilfield Technology,

The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), held each year in Houston, Texas, US, is one of the world's leading upstream oil and gas events. Before OTC 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oilfield Technology contacted a range of key players in the upstream industry and asked for their insight on the latest technologies that were due to be showcased at this year's OTC.

In this submission, Nicholas Rouge and Steffan Lindsø, Oceaneering, discuss the company's development of ROV vehicles and systems.

Oceaneering believe the offshore energy industry will need remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that increase efficiency, reduce risk, and lower carbon footprints.

In late 2019, the company introduced its Isurus vehicle, which is based on the MagnumTM ROV system and combines optimised hydraulic and propulsion packages with a hydrodynamic design to meet the requirements of challenging environments. The vehicle increases operational windows in areas such as the West of Shetland in the UK North Sea, India, and Brazil where high currents can affect operations. The vehicle, unlike smaller ROVs marketed for high-speed work, is a work class ROV. It integrates full-sized hydraulic manipulators, handles the same loads as the Magnum, and can deliver the same power-to-payload to devices.

The vehicle is capable of achieving 5 knots in forward and reverse, lateral speeds greater than 2 knots, and a vertical speed of 1.3 knots. Equipped with advanced vehicle control, navigation, and optional stationkeeping functionality, it enables work to be completed more efficiently, on-time, and cost-effectively.

The Isurus ROV is suitable for undertaking cable lay, performing pre- and post-lay cable survey runs for cable messenger wire hook-up, and assisting with the deployment of subsea robotic crawlers for subsea weld inspections. For the last three years, the company has focused on developing a supervisory control software for a range of autonomous vehicles, including work class autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and ROVs. The software is an agnostic operating system and supports various mission types. By adopting an agnostic approach, it is possible to roll out updates to an entire fleet and generate an ever-expanding track record for autonomy sub-modules.

Figure 1. The Isurus ROV.

In March 2019, a Living Lab was established near Tau, Norway, that is dedicated to the development, testing, and verification of the new control software and autonomous vehicles.

From the Tau site, a vehicle can be launched and controlled from the quayside and navigated through a shore-side obstacle course, which includes a subsea docking station, various pipelines, and infrastructure designed to replicate an offshore environment. This setup is used to ensure the software developed works as intended and is thoroughly tested for reliability during the course of the development programme.

The FreedomTM vehicle, which integrates the new control software platform and was tested at Tau, will complete offshore qualification trials in 2020 in preparation for subsequent pipeline inspection work scopes.

This configuration of the vehicle will enable it to track pipelines with close proximity and tolerances, providing significantly improved data acquisition. Tracking a pipeline this closely, however, adds complications. To compensate, the software includes a heightened level of obstacle detection, autonomous avoidance, and situational awareness to ensure that it avoids obstacles, can re-plan its route, and re-engage with the tracked pipeline.

The control software features autonomous recognition of features along a pipeline, including free-spans, depleted anodes, mattress crossings and anomalies which can trigger sub-missions for further inspection, thus avoiding the requirement for subsequent inspection operations following the initial survey.

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