The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Jan/Feb 2019


Society for Underwater Technology

Innovations in underwater tooling and technologies

A total of 43 people attended the Aberden Branch’s November evening seminar titled ‘New Underwater Tooling and Technologies’, which covered recent and soon-to-arrive innovations that will expand the ways in which pipelines and subsea assets can be managed.

Steffan Lindsø, director of emerging technology for Oceaneering Europe, discussed ‘Semi-Permanent Subsea Vehicles’ and Oceaneering’s e-ROV and Freedom vehicles. Their hydrodynamic design and power load is a continual trade-off between size and shape, range and costs for maximising deployment time and vehicle endurance. Oceaneering estimates that with the adoption of rim-driven thrusters, a sleeker exoskeleton, and with appropriate choice of mission tooling, the Freedom ROV will be able to travel the length of the entire Norwegian Continental Shelf using 17 docking stations.

Donald Ballantyne, commercial director of Paradigm Flow Services, in ‘Solving Subsea Flow Assurance Challenges in Riser, Pipelines and Flowlines’, discussed Paradigm’s improved Flexi-Coil tool. Adapting coiled-tubing equipment normally used for well workover, the company has been able to clean the insides of pipelines over a distance of 11,000 feet/3.5 kilometres with a 10,000psi water-jet which simultaneously pulls itself along the line whilst jetting, allowing the head to pass through more than 560 degrees of bends. Donald explained that the method should be capable of 15 kilometres though this has not yet been proven. He gave two case studies with video, showing recent jobs where waxes and sand were cleaned from blocked pipelines, allowing oil production to resume.

Dr Christopher Bridge, domain champion (interpretation) of OneSubsea, discussed ‘Leak Detection Technologies and Applicability in the Subsea Environment’. Fibre optic lines laid in the ground at OneSubsea’s Cambridge research centre have been able to detect nearby vibrations caused by digging and traffic. Testing this capability for pipeline leaks has shown that they can detect the signature of a pipe burst and infer the magnitude of a leak. With fibre optic cables already capable of being built into the fabric of flexible risers and control umbilicals, it brings the possibility of subsea leak detection. A case study focused on an existing installation on a subsea riser buoyancy can as a trial.

As is often the case, questions from our audience over-ran our allowed time and all three of our speakers were kept busy during the networking buffet afterwards, answering further questions that there hadn’t been time for in the auditorium.

Martin Harley

3D subsea data acquisition and AGM

The SUT North of England Branch’s closing evening meeting of 2018 was held at Newcastle University. The event combined our AGM with a talk covering DeepOcean’s experiences and developments in subsea 3D imaging.

The evening was chaired by Andrew Pople of Wagtail Engineers, who started the evening by inviting North of England Branch chairman Michael Williams, managing director of PDL Solutions, to provide a review of the branch activities over the last year. Michael recounted how over the last year the Branch has arranged five technical evening meetings and a tour of the Port of Blyth, presenting a range of technical topics to 330 attendees. The North of England SUT+ team have arranged a number of tours of local businesses and organised the annual student event, presenting the subsea industry as a potential future career through a mix of talks and activities to 75 students from local schools.

Michael was able to report that the Branch had made a small surplus from these activities and thanked sponsors for their support during the year.

Andrew then introduced David Rattray from DeepOcean who had valiantly stepped in (or more accurately stepped off a plane) at the last minute to replace Mark Lawrence who was unable to be present.

David is a senior project surveyor at DeepOcean with a background in geography and hydrographic surveying and, as we were to find out, a deep knowledge of the evening’s topic and photogrammetry in particular, as highlighted by his excellent answers to many probing questions at the end of the talk. David set off by immersing us in some history of DeepOcean’s past experiences in building 3D models though a variety of subsea sampling techniques. This started in 2014 with the use of acoustic scanning techniques to create a model of a seabed structure. He highlighted how many different scan locations were required to produce a relatively sparse model.

The company then moved onto using laser-scanning techniques which gave better resolution than acoustic but required accurate positional information of the vehicle to produce accurate models. He showed a model from 2016 that was used to investigate PLET (pipeline end terminations) movement and its impact on spool piece design. As impressive as this model was, there were more fascinating examples to come as he took us into the realms of photogrammetry.

It was clear how rapid the changes in technique (acoustic, laser to photo) had developed and David highlighted how the large community of practitioners in other fields (surveying through to dentistry) was pushing the rapid development of photogrammetry techniques and tools.

In terms of DeepOcean’s path into photogrammetry, David explained that the first instance was a by-product of a pipeline survey in 2017 when the company decided to see what sort of a model it could produce from the image data captured by the visual survey. This produced surprisingly good results and on showing these to the clients, DeepOcean was asked to repeat this on a 500-kilometre pipeline survey.

David took us through an overview of the multistage process of producing these models and their potential uses. He also highlighted that no specialist non-standard equipment was required to be fitted to the ROV to capture the footage required. High-definition cameras were adequate (although 4k images were better for highly accurate work) with just a simple scale bar placed on the structure to help with the image processing and model scaling.

What followed was a dazzling show of projects and 3D models where sometimes it was hard to know if we were looking at ROV footage or flying around a computer model.

David’s talk showed us just how much potential for crossover technologies there is within the subsea industry and how quickly change can be made if we keep our eyes and ears open to new ideas. Surely a lesson for us all, and in this case a very informative and enjoyable one.

As this was our AGM we were lucky enough to have Jacqui Adams, SUT’s ever supportive events manager, and SUT chairman Steve Hall attending. Andrew was able to call on Steve to say a few words about the wider SUT organisation in 2018.

Steve kept it brief (we knew there were pies waiting next door) and talked about how the SUT had seen expanding membership over the last year. He explained what a pleasure it was to visit the various branches and listen to such a wide variety of talks and topics and his excitement at some of the developments, certainly in instrumentation, that he had been presented with during such trips.

The audience then moved next door to continue talking about what we had just been presented. Suffice to say, the pies – like the rest of the evening – were very enjoyable.

Martin Bingham

Reaching out to the future generation of engineers

The North of England Branch SUT+ hosted the 4th Engineering Under the Waves event with the support of NUSTEM (Northumbria University STEM team) at Northumbria University, with the goal of inspiring 16-18 year olds and giving them the opportunity to get in face-to-face with real engineers and learn what it is like to have a career in the subsea industry.

During the day students had a chance to talk to real engineers from a number of local companies and engage in practical sessions run by our event sponsors.

Prior to a free lunch, everybody learnt about subsea engineering and had the opportunity to see some of the products that were engineered by the visiting companies. The second half concentrated on what it is like to be an engineer. Students worked with engineers through practical sessions that involved 3D modelling, structural analysis, production management, control systems, subsea valves and pressure bodies. Still some of the visitors found the lab tours around Northumbria University the most exciting.

Every year Engineering Under the Waves gains in popularity. The subsea industry is growing and happy to welcome new engineers in its field.

SUT+ would like to express its gratitude to the event sponsors: Baker Hughes GE, BEL Valves, Osbit, Royal IHC, SMD and TechnipFMC. Our partner in this STEM event was Northumbria University, represented by Antonio Portas, which kindly provided the venue and all of the staff involved with the tours and the general running of the event. Thanks would also like to be extended to the photographer Jonathan Sanderson. Finally, a special mention to the SUT+ members Eugenie Warden, Elizabeth Waterman, Thai Truong, Chris Convery, Shaun Burrows and Denis Vasiljev, who helped to organise and make this event possible.

Denis Vasiljev





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