In an offshore oil industry first, Equinor has signed a 10-year subsea services contract worth €40M (US$44M) with Italy’s Saipem to use undersea resident robots to support the Njord field development on the Norwegian Continental Shelf
Using underwater drones will lessen the demand for offshore support vessels, lowering costs and reducing the operation’s environmental footprint.
Under the contract, which contains a 10-year option, Saipem-Sonsub will deploy its underwater intervention drone (UID) Hydrone-R starting in Q1 2020 and the all-electric work-class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hydrone-W in 2021.
Saipem E&C offshore division chief operating officer Francesco Racheli called the contract a “very significant milestone” for the company and industry.
The scope of work encompasses ROV and UID services to support drilling activities and conduct inspections and interventions on the Njord subsea assets, namely pipeline end manifolds, flowlines, umbilicals and riser bases. Control of Hydrone-R and Hydrone-W will be overseen from both the floating rig Njord-A and onshore via Sonsub’s proprietary remote-control protocols.
Fitted with a series of sensors and proprietary AI for unmanned navigation and autonomous anomaly detection on a wide range of subsea systems, Hydrone-R will be capable of performing light construction works and advanced inspections on subsea assets, says Saipem.
Saipem reports that Hydrone-R, as a subsea resident drone, can remain underwater for 12 months. In resident mode, Hydrone-R has wireless operability and can be connected to subsea infrastructure via through-water communication links. It can cover an area within a 10-km radius for inspections and interventions. An even larger distance can be covered via intermediate subsea docking stations for recharging, mission download or data upload, providing a flexible range of operations.
Hydrone-R can also operate more traditionally, launched subsea and then retrieved on the surface after completing its mission.
Executed entirely by Sonsub, Saipem’s business line for life-of-field, underwater technology and subsea processing, the Hydrone programme is a key workstream of Saipem’s technology development plan associated with subsea robotics.