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Robotic Roustabouts for Tomorrow’s Subsea Fields

Robotic submarines, capable of operating by themselves thousands of feet underwater for months or perhaps years at a time, are under development as the vanguard of tomorrow’s subsea oil and gas fields. This development comes as the offshore oil and gas industry moves into ever-deeper waters and remote areas of the world, where installing a floating production facility is either economically unjustifiable or infeasible.

The industry’s solution is to install production equipment on the seafloor, where someone, or something, must keep a close eye on all of it. That something is likely to be what are known as field resident autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Nonresident AUVs have already paved the way by proving they can carry out detailed inspections of platforms and pipelines in some cases four times faster than a human-piloted remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Two of the leading companies in the resident AUV business, Lockheed Martin and Saab Seaeye, are blending proven military technology with new software and hardware optimized for the offshore industry. Their emerging systems represent a new breed of subsea robots that will be capable of much more than earlier generations of autonomous systems. As their capabilities are realized, resident AUVs will eventually be assigned many of the same tasks that ROVs are carrying out today.

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Robotic Roustabouts for Tomorrow’s Subsea Fields

Trent Jacobs, JPT Senior Technology Writer

01 January 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 1

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