Subsea Systems

Sept. 23, 2019

Underwater intervention drone enters testing phase

Saipem subsidiary Sonsub recently began endurance and qualification tests of its Hydrone-R underwater intervention drone.

The Hydrone program is the key workstream of Saipem’s Technology Development Plan within subsea robotics; a strategic move aimed at changing the paradigm of underwater inspections and interventions via a fleet of next-generation drones and advanced ancillary equipment.

Entirely executed by the Sonsub center, the program consists of Hydrone-S, an advanced AUV; Hydrone-R, a resident hybrid ROV/AUV; and Hydrone-W, a resident redeployable ROV. Saipem said it has anticipated a phased commercialization throughout 2019 and 2020.

Hydrone-R, the first unit to be launched in the market, is an underwater intervention drone capable of performing light construction works as well as advanced inspections on subsea assets. It has a series of sensors embedded onboard and proprietary Artificial Intelligence features for unmanned navigation and autonomous anomaly detection on a wide range of subsea systems.

The vehicle can remain underwater uninterruptedly for 12 months, making it the first ever resident subsea drone, according to Sonsub. In this resident mode, the vehicle features wireless operability and can be connected to subsea infrastructures via through-water communication links. It can cover an area within a 10-km (6-mi) radius for inspections and interventions. In addition, more distance can be covered via intermediate subsea docking stations for recharging, mission download or data upload.

Roberto Di Silvestro, Head of Sonsub, said: “… Our extensive qualification test campaign has been thoroughly scrutinized by DNV GL and other reputable experts in order to attain a third-party qualification for subsea resident use by November 2019…”

BHGE, McDermott receive Ichthys contracts

McDermott International Inc. and Baker Hughes, a GE company have won contracts to provide a joint umbilicals, risers and flowlines (URF) and subsea production systems (SPS) solution for the INPEX-operated Ichthys LNG project offshore northwest Australia.

The award includes a joint URF and SPS EPCI solution, comprising a new subsea well gathering system (GS4), tied back to the existing central processing facility Ichthys Explorer. The award also includes in-fill URF EPCI scope involving the development of new subsea wells tied-in to the existing gathering systems. Water range from 240 to 270 m (787 to 885 ft).

Fabrication of the subsea URF equipment will be carried out at McDermott’s facility in Batam, Indonesia. Using the Subsea Connect execution model, BHGE will deliver the SPS scope, including vertical Xmas trees, associated production control systems, distribution equipment and topsides controls as well as associated installation and commissioning support services.Offshore installation is expected to begin in 2020 and be completed in 2023.

ADNOC orders Aker umbilicals for Dalma

ADNOC has contracted Aker Solutions to supply subsea umbilicals for the Dalma gas development project in shallow waters off the UAE.

“This is the first subsea umbilical award by ADNOC in the UAE and the first subsea award for Aker Solutions in the Persian Gulf,” said Luis Araujo, CEO of Aker Solutions.

The scope of the $78-million award includes four steel tube umbilicals totaling more than 100 km (62 mi). The umbilical system will supply power, communication services, and chemical injection fluids. It will connect the subsea equipment to three new wellhead platforms and link the topsides facilities on the offshore control platform to equipment located onshore.

The company’s plant in Mobile, Alabama, will design, engineer, and manufacture the umbilical system, with the work due to finish in early 2021.

Market vulnerable at $50/bbl

The subsea market in 2019 will experience year-on-year growth for the first time since 2014. But the positive outlook is vulnerable to any significant decline in oil prices over the next few years, according to Rystad Energy.

Henning Bjørvik, an analyst on the firm’s oilfield service team, said: “We expect the subsea market to thrive during the coming years, but market growth will be at risk if the oil price falls to $50/bbl.”

Development this year is essentially locked in with brownfield opportunities and already sanctioned projects. However, the oil price will dictate growth moving forward.

In a $60 to $70 oil environment, the subsea market is poised to grow around 7% annually up to 2025, Rystad claimed. But a significant portion of this activity is at risk if the price of Brent crude falls to $50/bbl. According to the firm, prices at that level would still be enough to support 5% annual growth in the subsea market through 2022, but after that the growth rate could fall to zero.

“Although we expect the subsea market to have one of the highest growth rates within oilfield services, the segment is also more vulnerable to an oil price drop than the oilfield services market in general. We see significant risks in terms of subsea spending as well as growth,” Bjørvik said. •