The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

May/Jun 2019


Society for Underwater Technology

Question time

A total of 84 people attended the Aberdeen Branch’s March evening event. ‘An Independent State of Mind’ panel discussion invited representatives from the new breed of North Sea operators to answer a variety of questions relevant to an oil and gas industry just starting to climb out of the longest downturn in its history.

John Woods, chief operating officer of i3 Energy, Colin Percival, technical director of Parkmead Group, Shona Campbell, project manager for Neptune Energy and Guy Sharman, SURF manager for Alpha Petroleum fielded questions from the SUT existing members and the audience, with Callum Falconer, CEO of DundeeCom as chair for the evening.

Callum started proceedings by asking about how the industry could move the needle on productivity and development costs. Amongst our panellists’ replies, power generation, project execution speed, behavioural change and small-pool clusters all featured.

Subsequent questions touched upon decommissioning liabilities, including the difficult issue of how to prepare for the currently unknowable politics of the future, and access to infrastructure for independents, where majors operating the host platform differ in business culture and margins from the independents.

At several points the panellists were in accord on topics such as the skills shortfall and attracting new recruits to the industry. The de-carbonisation of energy, environmental reputation and the divestment movement have combined to create an image problem which the industry struggles to counter in order to attract job applicants, yet the panel were united that the North Sea was still a growth area with a future. At other times there was a little good-natured disagreement, for example on genuinely new ways to do business between operator and contractor, or whether consolidation amongst the Tier-1 contractors was a good or bad thing.

As is often the case, there were more questions than we had time for, particularly from our audience. All four panellists remained busy during the networking buffet afterwards, answering further questions there hadn’t been time for in the auditorium.

  • The panel discussion invited representatives from the new breed of North Sea operators to answer a variety of questions relevant to an oil and gas industry just starting to climb out of the longest downturn in its history
Surveying subsea with the latest technologies

The SUT Perth Branch technical evening entitled Surveying Subsea with the Latest Technologies, held at the Parmelia Hilton, was opened by chairman Rex Hubbard and chaired by committee member Paul Farquharson.

The event was kindly sponsored by the evening’s presenters – Cathx Ocean, 3D at Depth and BlueZone Group.

The first presentation was provided by Darren Burrowes, chief technology officer of Bluezone Group, and directed around the topic of ‘Maritime Robotics for Defence’. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has always sought to maintain a “technology-edge” in capability and with that in mind, maritime robotics is the fast-growing area where the ADF can find its edge. By building experience now, it can design for the future using trends and drivers for submarine and unmanned autonomous systems. An overview was given of the current capability for minehunters, telemetry buoys and sonar wave gliders, which allow autonomous defence and data collection. The final part of the presentation was focused on forecasting and future innovations. This includes collaboration with industry and academia, with development from marinisation and hydrographic surveying to river gauging and surveillance. For autonomous vehicles, small is beautiful, with the target for smarter weapons, smarter training and “train as you fight”.

Our second presentation was by Adrian Boyle, chief executive officer of Cathx Group, and was titled ‘Spatially Co-registered Laser and Image Data: Precision, Efficiency and Data Outputs for Robust Automation and Machine Vision’. This presentation delivered the latest developments in precision laser and image-based point cloud data capabilities for inspection of pipelines and structures and for resident or remote vehicle automation. During the overview, the main emphasis focused on how Cathx’s vision is to conduct machine-based vision systems to deliver automated survey faster but with critical high-resolution imagery. This is done with rapid and robust data collection methods and considerations for today’s processing and for compliance with automation. Three-dimensional laser mapping work performed in Australia and the North Sea showed the robust automation of geometric anomaly detection such as freespans and on-circularity in pipeline inspection, as well as structural assessments.
The final presentation of the evening, titled ‘Using a Subsea LiDAR Generated As-built Digital Twin to Assess Differential Movement’, was by Neil Manning, chief operations officer of 3D at Depth. The LiDAR applications are used for many different applications ranging from metrology and structural integrity measurements, vibration mode effect displacement and subsea infrastructure and subsidence measurement.

3D at Depth’s new SL3 optical design now enables the accuracies and repeatability at up to 4000 metres water depth, previously only found with industrial grade terrestrial LiDAR laser scanners which can achieve accuracies of two to three millimetres. Subsea LiDAR laser scanning creates three-dimensional 1:1 copies or “digital twins” of existing subsea drill centres, jackets and interconnecting infrastructure. The true value of this capability is realised over time as differential movements in structures and stresses on jumpers or spools can be accurately quantified and appropriate, timely remedial action planned without the need to shut in and remove the jumper to fit tooling from legacy methods.

After each presentation, there were questions from the floor which allowed each presenter to provide some detailed insights into certain aspects of their pitches. The presentations and whole evening were extremely well received by the 117 attendees.

Paul Farquharson





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