The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
The exploitation of new opportunities offshore Brazil has led to the development and deployment of three new customised vehicles, writes Kevin Taylor, vice president of Forum Subsea Technologies
With a new government, Brazilian leaders are committed to enabling greater participation by IOCs and local independent players to improve energy efficiency and reinforce its ranking, and reputation, as the world’s 12th largest oil producer. This is reflected by national oil company Petrobras’ projections of 10% growth in oil production, and average annual growth of 5% in total oil and natural gas production, over the period 2020–2023.
The exploitation of new opportunities in the region has seen the global oilfield products company Forum Energy Technologies specifically develop and deploy three new ultra-compact Perry XLX-C work-class remotely operated vehicles. The trio of customised ROVs will work alongside three standard-sized XLX vehicles, which have a long track record of successful operation in the region. The vehicles will support three new contracts between Norwegian supply shipping company DOF Subsea Group and Brazilian oil multinational Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras).
The long-term contracts are expected to last three years with the option to be extended for another two years and follow a number of recent awards for DOF Subsea in the region.
To meet the operator’s contractual specification of work package size without compromising power and performance, the height, length and width of the conventional Perry XLX-C work-class ROV was completely redesigned within a tight timeframe. It was shrunk in volume by 23% while retaining the same power, performance and wide range of capabilities as the original vehicle.
Designed and manufactured at Forum’s UK facility at Kirkbymoorside in Yorkshire in early 2019, the bespoke ROVs required a significantly reduced footprint to suit the regional tender requirements. Design work was undertaken to reduce the overall footprint of the XLXC from 9.434 cubed metres to 7.255 cubed metres, making it the smallest work-class vehicle boasting a 150HP capability in the global marketplace.
The 4160v fed hydraulic power unit, which is capable of being configured with a number of hydraulic pump combinations to suit client demand, allows the ROVs to operate a wide range of tooling as contractually required via a client reserved 10-station auxiliary valve pack and two-station high flow manifold.
Key features of the more compact version of the XLX-C:
In combination with its reduced size, the Perry XLX-C offers extensively reconfigured vehicle control components. For instance, the electrical junction boxes have been customised to ease maintenance and the addition of extra equipment. The control system has also been remodelled to eliminate the need for an atmospheric control can, and junction boxes now have an improved, backplane design which allows for easier configuration, saving valuable time during operations.
The reconfigured ROV can support an enhanced and fully integrated survey system in which interfaces are wholly compatible with all modern survey equipment, including sub-bottom profilers and multibeam sonars. Fixed pitch, hydraulic thruster speed sensing has been introduced to give enhanced thruster response, feedback and the ability to have a finer control of the ROV, in and out of auto functions.
A wide range of automatic modes, including dynamic braking and auto cruise, have been established as standard. The subsea computer utilises feedback signals from a variety of onboard sensors, or external aiding devices to calculate the control commands required to maintain the ROV’s heading, depth, altitude or position.
Like the original, larger ROVs, and consistent with the rest of the Forum range, the control station features a combination of touch screen and hard controls to form a highly ergonomic user interface for the pilot and co-pilot. When in the field, the touch screen display can be customised to suit varying activities.
The vehicle is controlled using Forum’s Perry-proven Integrated Controls Engine (ICE). This is a blend of proprietary hardware and software designs, which together forms a multi-function control systems engine that can effortlessly accommodate varied control applications and aid with detailed component level diagnostics simultaneously.
As a benefit of being more compact, as well as being required to be deployed without a tether management system, in a ‘Live Boat’ configuration it is also paired with a scaled-down winch, umbilical and handling system, resulting in a welcome saving on overall vessel footprint.
The launch and recovery system provided is another Forum Energy Technologies brand – Dynacon – located in Bryan, Texas, USA. Three units were built and tested successfully in line with the demanding project schedule. All were complete with active heave compensation for increased capability to launch and recover the ROV spread in challenging operating conditions.
The ultra-compact vehicles, which in this configuration have a depth rating of 2000 metres salt water are designed for long term, reliable operations and will be deployed from the ROV support vessels the Skandi Commander, Olympia and Chieftain.
Delivery and mobilisation of the ROV support vessels was achieved by DOF Subsea.
Since July, all three vehicles have been competently performing a wide scope of subsea operations. These include, but are not limited to, cleaning, inspection and maintenance, intervention, valve operation, survey, equipment installations and beacon and node placement, to support a range of tasks on the operator’s subsea production systems.
On the announcement of the contracts, Ingve Osberg, DOF subsea group asset manager, said: “DOF Subsea is pleased with Forum and the long relationship providing DOF Subsea with the high quality of work-class remotely operated vehicles, including support needed for our ROV business.”
Forum Energy Technologies, a leading provider of subsea-related products and services for the oil and gas sector, has a UK manufacturing centre in Kirkbymoorside which focuses predominantly on ROV technology. The facility has the capability to provide everything from manned rescue submarines or complete trencher spreads right through to tooling and individual components at a base level, complementing the core business of Perry and SubAtlantic ROV manufacture.
In total, DOF Subsea currently has more than 60 Forum ROVs in its global fleet and Forum provides comprehensive, 24-hour-a-day post-delivery support and maintenance globally including:
With a base in Rio de Ostras, in the southeast of Brazil, the company currently has 40 ROVs operational in the region, for three major offshore contractors.
As Brazil prepares for the much-anticipated auction of drilling rights, a consulting firm hired by the country’s regulator has said there is significantly more oil up for grabs than proven reserves in Mexico. At least six billion surplus barrels of oil and possibly as many as 15 billion barrels, across four blocks, are potentially up for sale in the Transfer of Rights. This has led to unprecedented interest from the industry’s biggest players.
With operator’s growing need to secure practical cost-efficiencies and improve green credentials, converting and adapting proven designs to suit specific market requirements has been the key to success in this instance for Forum’s latest ROV and DOF Subsea’s latest additions to the asset list in Brazil.
The world’s smallest 150hp work-class ROV is born of this process. Forum’s compact Perry XLX-C is now available to the global market and is a testament to the engineering expertise and ingenuity to evolve a trusted solution to suit the smaller footprint that a growing number of tenders are now demanding.
Kevin Taylor is vice president of Forum Subsea Technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Control Engineering from the University of Huddersfield, UK, an MBA from The Open University, UK, and has more than 18 years’ experience in the subsea industry.