The machines are coming!
The future is autonomous, but robotisation in the oil industry is nothing new. Although the first automation appeared in the 80s and 90s, today we’re at the dawn of a new age of digitalisation. Here, we take a look at six of the coolest offshore robots working for Equinor.
See how robots have played an important role in the oil industry for 20 years—and how the newest robots are leveraging the latest in digitalisation to contribute to safer, more efficient operations.
Photo: Eelume. the snake robot
1. Eelume—the snake robot that’s a caretaker on the seabed
Eelume changes everything. It’s a new type of underwater intervention vehicle with a snake-like body and underwater thrusters that can swim around subsea installations and perform small tasks such as turning on or off valves and filming pipelines to check for faults.
In its prototype form, this snake robot developed by Eelume, in cooperation with Equinor and Kongsberg Maritime, had a long slender body and red, shining eyes. In its latest guise, Eelume is designed to live permanently underwater and carry out underwater intervention tasks that would normally require the mobilisation of a remote-controlled robot from the surface.
The vehicle is able to access places previous machines could not reach and is a cost-effective way to conduct maintenance and inspection. With the snake robots lying ready on the seabed it is easier to send them to a pipeline than to send a remote-controlled robot down from the surface.
3. The E-ROV drone – our battery-powered “Tesla-submarine”
4. Iron roughnecks do the dirty work
In the 1990s, some of the human roughnecks were replaced by robots called iron roughnecks. Initially, the main task of these hydraulic machines was to screw drill pipes together, with two parts that screwed and fastened the pipes. Today, this technology has evolved into an electric robot, giving greater efficiency.
This has altered the need for expertise on the platform, and today, a human roughneck controls the iron roughnecks from a control room rather than working on the drill floor, manually assembling the pipes. This has resulted in much lower risk to the workers and has reduced the number of accidents offshore.
The HydraTong ARN models from National Oilwell Varco are among the most advanced iron roughnecks on the market today, with the possibility of full drilling process automation. This is possible thanks to high resolution cameras with fast image processing that monitor the operation and streamline the drilling process. The robot has integrated tools such as automatic bouncers and mud buckets, and tackles complete drilling tasks that would otherwise have required a manual operator.