Deep dive into subsea tech

Online Editor

Louise Davis introduces the new technologies and projects that are making a splash in the subsea industry

Recent months have been a boom period for the oil & gas subsea engineering sector. A host of new product announcements has been matched by a flurry of project and contract news – all going to show that, even in tough economic times, this remains an area full of innovation. Below, we highlight some of the recent stories that have been making waves.

Into the deep

Valeport’s popular range of SWiFT profilers has been extended with the launch of a new addition for those requiring CTD measurements to depths of 6000m. Offering increased versatility and no compromise on accuracy, the new SWiFT Deep CTD has been designed with the intention of a seamless workflow and offers the highest quality CTD profiles in a compact, robust and portable package.

The new profiler provides survey-grade sensor technology coupled with the convenience of Bluetooth wireless technology, a rechargeable battery and an integral GNSS module to geo-locate each profile.

Using Valeport’s high-accuracy sensor technology to combine sensors for multiple profiles in a single drop, the SWiFT Deep CTD can operate to 6000m, delivering directly measured conductivity, temperature and depth. In addition, it will provide computed salinity, density and sound velocity, calculated using the UNESCO international standard algorithm and Chen and Millero equation. Data can be quickly and easily downloaded wirelessly, and instantly shared in industry-standard data formats.

Subsea service solutions

In subsea facilities news, C-Innovation, an affiliate of Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), has expanded into a new facility in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, providing an additional dock facility for subsea inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) and riserless light well intervention (RLWI) services. These dedicated docks, along with C-I’s current docking location, will provide the company’s clients with faster mobilisation, demobilisation and between wells maintenance times, which translates into cost savings.

The second facility offers vessel loading, project system integration testing (SIT), mobilisation and demobilisation services for the subsea market. With 1,500ft2 of linear dock space and 400,000ft2 of yard space, the location features a Manitowoc 888 crane and a Taylor 36,000-pound forklift. The facility provides 24/7 operations, 24/7 dedicated dispatcher support, a weekday manager and client offices with conference rooms.

JeanPaul Guidry, shorebase operations manager, C-Innovation, says, “The new facility serves as a hub for executing all of our subsea projects. As C-I’s projects move from the initiation and planning phases, our shorebase operation facilities provide an efficient workflow as we move projects into mobilisation and execution.”

The new Port Fourchon facility delivers comprehensive solutions for both subsea IMR and RLWI services on multiple vessels simultaneously. For IMR work, C-I provides both short and long-term storage for project equipment, and can move into SIT prior to mobilisation. C-I can also mobilise all project equipment onto the vessel, without additional movements to/from slips.

For CI’s RLWI services, equipment and fluid can be staged prior to each mobilisation or between well maintenance (BWM). SIT and preventative maintenance can be completed at the new facility before the vessel is ready to start a well campaign. The new location also features a dedicated waste fluid area, allowing the vessel to remove fluids and clean tanks efficiently so new fluids can be loaded in a timely manner.

Guidry adds, “Our customers trust us with providing a turnkey project execution solution. Having facilities dedicated to project execution creates a unique offering within the subsea service provider marketplace, and helps strengthen the trust our clients have in us.”

Sound and vision

Voyis Imaging is an expert in subsea optical inspection technologies. It says that the growth in ROV operations has drastically improved underwater situational awareness, but their effectiveness has been hindered by a lack of advancements in their vision systems. Current ROV cameras still only offer two-dimensional data, prioritising vehicle piloting and situational awareness as the most immediate needs of the operators. However, both piloting and inspection capabilities can be significantly enhanced with a three-dimensional understanding, presenting a new frontier for underwater robotics. Seeing this as an opportunity to advance ROV vision systems Voyis decided to create a vision platform that could capture both low-latency enhanced video for piloting while simultaneously capturing high quality stills images for 3D modelling – a solution that could generate incredible 3D reconstructions without specialised technicians or expensive third- party processing.

Voyis recently launched its new product line, Discovery Vision Systems, to address the trade-off that is currently made between piloting cameras and 3D inspection cameras. Piloting cameras prioritise low latency video at the expense of the image data required for 3D model generation. Conversely, 3D cameras prioritise image data at the expense of piloting effectiveness, limited by a higher latency and smaller field of view. The Discovery is a vision platform without compromise, delivering 4K piloting video together with 3D data.

Voyis offers two versions of the Discovery: the Discovery camera and the Discovery stereo.

The Discovery camera provides small ROV platforms with a compact imaging and lighting payload that streams both 4K low latency piloting video, as well recording crisp stills images for direct 3D modelling. The Discovery stereo brings true depth perception and real-time 3D modeling to ROV platforms operating at up to 4,000m depth. It maintains a wide field of view (75°x75°) and low latency for the piloting video stream, while onboard computing instantaneously calculates 3D depth maps for measurements and coverage monitoring.

The cutting edge

The rental side of the sector remains extremely busy. In just one example of news in this field, Subsea Technology & Rentals (STR), a leading provider of specialist survey and inspection rental equipment, products, and data-enabling services to the offshore energy market, has strengthened its rental fleet with the addition of two high-performance Webtool cutters, the HCV275 and RCV160. These cutters, designed to suit specific customer requirements, can be deployed at subsea level, either mounted, operated by an ROV, or onboard a vessel for either planned production cutting of offshore wind power cable or as an emergency cutter.

As reducing vessel hours is of paramount importance to installation companies, deploying subsea cable for offshore wind projects needs to be as efficient as possible.

The HCV275 and RCV160 feature integrated interlocks to ensure that no cut can be activated until the anvil is fully deployed. The interlock takes away the possibility of human error and makes it ideal for deployment subsea, where visibility is poor.

This innovation was introduced following discussions with a number of customers who had either damaged or had come close to damaging their cutting tool by commencing the cut operation prior to the anvil being fully engaged.

Unlike other cutting methods, where there is a risk of the item flexing during cutting and either trapping or snapping the blade, closing the guillotine’s anvil locks the cable in position to ensure the cut is completed successfully, typically within a couple of minutes.

Technical director of Allspeeds, Rory McGarry, comments: “We are constantly looking at ways to innovate and improve the design and functionality of our cutting tools to aid the customer with their operations through improvements with safety and ease of use.”

Better connected

The subsea cable supplier and servicer, JDR, owned by the TFKable Group, has been awarded a contract by Petrogas E&P Netherlands to supply two umbilicals for the A15 and B10 offshore conventional gas fields in the Netherlands.

The fields are located in quads A & B, in a shallow water depth of 115 ft and are expected to recover 17.25 Mmboe, comprised of 103.5 bcf of natural gas reserves. As Europe strives to meet high gas demand, the production from this project will support in meeting supply targets.

JDR will engineer, design and manufacture two subsea umbilicals, that range from 10-13km in length, to provide vital power to two new platforms located at the A/B shallow gas field. The umbilicals incorporate hydraulic hoses, chemical injection hoses, electrical cables and fibre optic cables that enable communication between the platform facilities. JDR will also deliver topside umbilical termination unit pull-in heads, hang-off bodies and umbilical termination assemblies for the project.

Rory Graham at JDR says: “We’re delighted to be selected by Petrogas for this critical project at a time when energy security couldn’t be more important in Europe. The demand for natural gas is high and we’re here to support our customers in ensuring production is maintained while oil and gas remains a vital part of the energy mix, and as the industry journeys through the energy transition. We’ll manufacture all the cables at our facilities here in the UK and our technical team of experts will be fundamental in ensuring we meet the swift turnaround time.”

Lotos notes

Lotos Petrobaltic, part of multi-energy concern Orlen, has ordered Saab’s Seaeye Leopard work class robotic vehicle to service underwater infrastructure within Poland’s B3 and B8 oil fields in the Baltic Sea.

After evaluating other work vehicles on the market, Lotos Petrobaltic chose the Seaeye Leopard for its versatility and ability to accommodate far more equipment options for a wider range of tasks.

Current tasks include the comprehensive inspection of underwater structures, construction cleaning, cutting, dredging for inspection, basic support for head installations and support for diving teams.

The Leopard’s adaptability is particularly important for Lotos Petrobaltic. The vehicle’s design means it can be expanded and configured in the future to perform comprehensive measurements and underwater works and inspections for a wide range of customers. It will be equipped with a survey package to include multi-beam sonar, lidar and pipetracker.

Their current Leopard configuration includes a Sonardyne DVL/INS survey system, Sprint-Nav INS, Digital Edge recording and event system, five cameras including Kongsberg HD system, also a One Laser for video and measurement, Tritech Super Seaking sonar, a seven-function manipulator, Schilling Orion gripper, electric torque tool, rotary disc cutter, WeSubsea dredge system, FlexiClean cleaning tool, water jet system and caviblaster, Cygus ultrasonic thickness gauge, multiplex survey pod and tooling sled.

The Leopard package also includes a tophat tether management system (TMS), an ‘A’ Frame launch and recovery system (LARS) and a custom control cabin.

At the same time, Lotos Petrobaltic is preparing its supply vessel, Bazalt II, as a dedicated operational platform for the Leopard, including adapting it to receive the LARS system and the custom configured control cabin, along with additional peripheral systems.