Underwater Drones Promote Sustainability of Offshore Natural Resources Exploitation

The paper presents an overview of underwater inspection drones and identifies the necessary elements to take full advantage of the technology.

Example of UIDs use for Oil and Gas Projects, operations monitoring
Example of UIDs use for Oil and Gas Projects, operations monitoring.
OTC 32481.

The goal of the complete paper is to offer an overview of underwater intervention/inspection drones (UIDs) and provide the necessary elements to take full advantage of this technology, supporting environmental sustainability of future offshore projects and activities. The investigation provided in the complete paper explores conventional applications for oil and gas and extends to future energy, mining, and CO2 capture and storage projects.

UID Technology

Subsea robotics is rapidly evolving from conventional remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to services delivered by a new generation of vehicles with hybrid capabilities.

UIDs present distinct advantages and technical challenges, including the following:

  • UIDs are battery-powered robotic solutions capable of interchanging data through water communication modems (acoustic or optical).
  • UIDs have hybrid AUV and ROV capabilities; as an ROV, they can be operated by a pilot using a remotely controlled console that also can be located onshore, while, as an AUV, they can execute complex tasks or missions automatically.
  • Underwater drones can efficiently and safely operate in total darkness, with poor or no communication links. For this reason, UIDs typically are provided with an advanced set of sensors (sonar, cameras, and lasers) capable of providing information about the vehicle’s orientation, altitude, depth, and the absolute or relative position.
  • UIDs can be deployed from a topside offshore facility, launched from shore, or deployed inside a subsea garage.

Although these descriptions underline some of the technical challenges related to UIDs that require additional steps to achieve full maturity, the use of UIDs nevertheless clearly presents advantages that are almost independent from the application scenarios, including reduced operational risks, intervention time, CO2 emissions, and cost.

Environmental Sustainability of Offshore Projects

The notion of environmental sustainability embodies maintaining an ecological balance in the natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations; promoting responsible and respectful management of natural resources; avoiding their depletion and the degradation of the environment; and extending the concept to encompass social, human, and economic considerations.

Robotic subsea technology offers pivotal assistance in accessing critical information so that all stakeholders can execute and operate offshore projects responsibly, satisfying essential projects’ commercial, environmental, and social criteria.

The authors write that, while offshore companies and technology suppliers have already jointly explored the introduction of UIDs within conventional integrity-management campaigns of oil and gas fields, confirming the benefits of this choice for derisking and cost efficiency, a deep analysis on how UIDs can be used to boost environmental sustainability of complex offshore projects is still missing. Their work investigates relevant examples in this domain.

Environmental Protection Plan

An overall environmental protection plan can be considered divided into three different phases.

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