ROVs to investigate seabed 'jungle'

Paul Boughton
Remotely operated vehicles are to be used to survey the 'jungle' of Caspian seabed as new pipelines are laid.

With the Caspian seabed a hazardous jungle of un-recorded old pipes and cables from the Soviet era, a Cougar XT ROV from Saab Seaeye is to become a vital investigative tool now that new pipelines are being laid.

After a favourable experience operating the vehicle elsewhere, highly skilled engineers of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, (SOCAR), decided to deploy the Cougar XT in the Caspian Sea for their underwater applications.

The ROV will be used for diving and pipeline inspection of the SOCAR current projects, and for future seabed inspection as new pipes are laid.

In addition to pipeline inspection and seabed survey, it will be used for a variety of tasks including the inspection and survey of vessels and platform legs.

Upgraded video package

SOCAR has taken a high-spec version of the 2000m rated Cougar XT with an upgraded video package including two Kongsberg high-definition mono low-light cameras, two Kongsberg colour zoom cameras, pan and tilt platform and LED lighting.

A suite of Tritech equipment including a Super SeaKing Sonar with a dual frequency profiling sonar head, a side scan sonar, and altimeter, is also fitted, along with a Tritech bathy system.

The Cougar XT comes with two five-function heavy duty manipulators, a grabber jaw, camera boom adaptors for the manipulators with Seaeye colour camera fitted, a water jetting system, cleaning brush assembly, 4inch hydraulic rotary disc cutter, 38mm anvil cutter, Cygnus ultrasonic thickness gauge and CP probes.

Three removable skids are supplied: a tooling skid, wheeled skid and an AX ring skid with AX ring removal tool and additional buoyancy.

The ROV will be launched from a Saab Seaeye stainless steel tether management system fitted with a camera and upgraded MUXs.

Deploying the Cougar will be a crane style launch and recovery system, supplied with a bullet/swivel assembly and lock latch assembly, together with an A60 zone ll rated ROV control cabin.

Maintenance and repair

French Jifmar Offshore Services has ordered two Saab Seaeye Cougar XT ROVs for a new Algerian contract.

This new project will involve work at three different oil terminal points where the ROVs will be used for inspection, maintenance and repair (IRM) tasks on structures, pipes, manifolds and the umbilicals at five SPM buoys.

For Jifmar, reliability was paramount in their choice of ROV.

"We chose Saab Seaeye because we trust the reliability of their ROVs," says Jean-Michel Berud, president of Jifmar Offshore Services. He explains that The Cougars will undertake a number of vital tasks that include checking the critical shape of the 'Chinese lantern' buoy structure and determining chain integrity.

To check the shape and location of these structures, the ROVs will be fitted with a 3D multibeam sonar. And the chain thickness measured using a Tritech Typhoon laser scaling system.

Jifmar is also planning to fit a water jetting cavitation cleaning system for blasting mollusc clear of the chains.

In addition the Cougars are equipped for a range of IRM tasks with equipment and tooling that includes low-light colour and black and white wide-angle cameras on a pan and tilt mechanism; a USBL Tracking System; and a dual five-function heavy duty manipulator skid.

The power of the 2000 metre rated Cougar XT design means it can operate heavy duty tooling and handle a wide range of work tasks including drill support, salvage, survey and IRM, at a much lower cost than using an hydraulic work ROV.

Different tooling options are easily added and changed, using the ROVs modular interface and bolt-on custom skids.

The ROV pilot gets unrivalled manoeuvrability from four vectored horizontal thrusters and two vertical thrusters, each having velocity feedback for precise control and built with drive technology that gives the Cougar the highest thrust-to-weight ratio in its class.

Winches and control cabin are supplied by Techsafe who have collaborated with Seaeye in the development of ROV support systems for over 20 years and are fully experienced in the rigours of offshore operations.

Their cabin interiors are custom designed, ergonomically efficient and can be easily altered. Uniquely, their winches are designed to take up little space yet can accommodate 1.5 kilometres of cable. They also have the unique feature of torque control which automatically stops the winch should ROV recovery be fouled. Both systems will be ATEX, A 60 zone 2 certified.

For Jifmar, the benefit of incorporating the Cougars into their fleet brings the advantage of a light-work ROV resource that can fulfil a wide range of contractual needs at a low cost. They are easy to handle, need few crew, can be mobilised quickly and have a reduced demand for deck space.

"We also like that, using the Cougars, means we can offer a full service without putting divers at risk," concludes Jean-Michel Berud.

Jifmar Offshore Services specialise in services to onshore and offshore oil and gas terminals, including surface and subsurface inspection, maintenance and repair (IRM).

Technical support

Meanwhile sales by Singapore-based Oceanvision of Saab Seaeye ROVs in the Far East has led the company to expand its vital technical support and spares hub in the region. It has sold 24 Saab Seaeye ROVs including Falcon, Tiger, Cougar and Panther, to its markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Western Australia.

Along with their ROV, AUV and Rental Equipment sales, Oceanvision supply ancillary equipment such as ROV tooling, sonars, manipulators, leak detection and other underwater sensors. They also manufacture and design surveillance camera systems for the general Marine and Offshore industry including production and storage facilities, underwater intervention and drilling.

Saab Seaeye Ltd is based in Faeham, Hampshire, UK.

Recent Issues