AUV Panel Announcement: Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) for Oil & Gas Applications

September 12, 2012 - via Subsea Survey IRM

As the search for oil and gas leads operators into ultra-deepwater, a new class of underwater vehicle is emerging. Some are survey vehicles, some are inspection vehicles, while others are hybrid (both AUV and ROV). Some are deployed from the surface while others are resident on the seafloor. Come listen to our panel of AUV experts and learn what is possible in the realm of deepwater survey and IRM!

Autonomous underwater vehicles will take center stage in Galveston this November.  TSC's Subsea Survey conference covers Inspection, Repair and Maintenance (IRM). Vehicle manufacturers are all beginning to introduce IRM versions of their AUVs designed to perform tasks in deepwater subsea fields.
Combine the ROV and AUV and look ahead a few years and you begin to see a new type of vehicle that may live in a subsea field performing work for months at a time.  Not a new concept, but one that has yet to be implemented on this scale.
As the offshore oil and gas industry continues to drill and operate at deeper depths, extend tie-back distances, and install more remotely operated infrastructure on the seabed, IRM will become a critical challenge for the operators.  Current estimates of worldwide offshore oil and gas infrastructure include 3,000 subsea wellheads, 180,000 kilometers of pipeline, and over 6,000 platforms.  The high costs of vessels and their large intervention spreads may give way to new methods for performing IRM work-and a new class of underwater vehicle.

What do we envision?
At first this new breed of vehicle might be deployed autonomously from the surface, performing fixed platform inspections and shallow water pipeline inspection. AUVs have already proven themselves to be highly-effective subsea survey platforms able to cover large areas in short time closer to the seabed, producing high resolution data.
In the future these vehicles will in dive to great depths, inspecting subsea fields and following pipelines from the field to the platform. But they will need greater power to perform some tasks.  
They may be reminiscent of the large work class vehicle of today, but...
    •    They will live on the seabed and plug into power sources provided by the subsea field. 
    •    They might be cylindrical in shape or be large open-frame vehicles with powerful hydraulics and manipulators.
    •    They may fly throughout the field with or without a tether. 
    •    They will have state-of-the-art HD vision and lighting, laser scanning optical imaging and high-frequency imaging sonars that will send real-time information via ultra high-speed optical (or hybrid optical/RF/acoustic) communication links to fiber optic networks built into the subsea field.
    •    These so-called Resident Underwater Vehicles will be capable of depths greater than 10,000 feet, and designed to withstand months of subsea operations without surfacing.
    •    They will initiate emergency repairs as well as carry out routine inspection tasks.
    •    Initially, the ultra high-speed optical links can facilitate human-in-the-loop intervention but ultimately these vehicles will perform completely autonomous operations such as turning a valve or cleaning biofouling from an optical viewport.

The possibilities are endless, and the pre-planning and engineering required to accomplish this dream is no easy feat.  But progress is being made at a fast pace with underwater vehicle, tool, software and communications pioneers producing solutions for the future today.

We invite you to come and listen to this panel, ask your own questions and be part of the next generation of underwater vehicle technology.

    AUV Operations in the Oilfield
The panel, led by moderator Donna Kocak, Harris Corp. (Maritime Robotics and Autonomous Systems), will consist of AUV manufacturers and operators. Invited panelists include representatives from Chevron, Shell, Lockheed Martin, Cybernetix, Oceaneering, Kongsberg, Subsea 7,  Saab Seaeye, ISE, Bluefin, Hydroid, Advanced Subsea Inc. and others.
Ms. Kocak has over 22 years experience in the ocean engineering field supporting design, development and testing of various scientific and engineering projects involving computer vision, robotics, instrumentation, and real-time systems.  In her present position as an Advanced Programs Engineer at HARRIS Corporation's Government Communications Division, Ms. Kocak is spearheading projects involving communications (both above and below the ocean's surface), multi-sensor image fusion and grasping & manipulation for autonomous maritime systems.

Prior to this, at HARRIS CapRock Communications, Ms. Kocak led the seafloor development of an ocean observing system that was recently deployed for commercial and scientific use. Ms. Kocak earned a MBA from the University of Florida, an MS in Professional Engineering Management and both an MS and BS in computer science from the University of Central Florida. From 2004 - 2008, she served as Chair of the Underwater Imaging Committee of the Marine Technology Society, and in 2008 she founded and now serves as Chair of the Society's new Committee on Ocean Observing Systems (OOS).

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