Today’s specialists within the Oil & Gas Industry already know how to monitor the integrity of infrastructure that is especially exposed to the inherent constraints of the deep water environment (such as risers, mooring lines and export lines). However, the available data are still too fragmented. Tomorrow’s operator at the surface will need to have available a comprehensive vision of the subsea infrastructure available at the surface and the capacity to intervene promptly if something goes wrong. With both of these objectives in mind, Total developed an innovative IMR system. The new and innovative concept is called SWIMMER (for Subsea Works Inspection and Maintenance with Minimum Environment ROV). It is based on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) which contains its own Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV), and is designed to spend up to 3 months on the sea floor.
The AUV is set up on board the FPSO then “swims” under its own power to one of the docking stations installed at the bottom of the ocean. Post docking, it releases its ROV which is controlled by an operator at the surface, and can intervene anywhere within a 200-meter radius around the station. The AUV has a range of 50 km. It is equipped with cameras, measurement instruments and a real-time interface to exchange data with the FPSO. The AUV can also inspect pipes and other equipment as it swims from one docking station to another.
SWIMMER comprises a few prime benefits:
- Alertness: uninterrupted presence on the seabed by the AUV for a period of three months improves surveillance of the installations and allows quicker intervention if necessary;
- Finances: because it does not depend on a dedicated support vessel, the AUV can translate to a substantial reduction in operating costs.
- Work is already under way to develop second-generation SWIMMER and subsea communications systems to increase its range and applications