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.
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. After extensive development and testing, it is now to be piloted offshore at the Åsgard field in the Norwegian Sea.
The snake-like robot Eelume is designed to live permanently underwater and carry out tasks that would normally require the use of a remote-controlled robot from the surface.
Eelume is a disruptive technology for subsea inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR). Eelume vehicles are basically self-propelled robotic arms whose slender and flexible body can transit over long distances and carry out operations in confined spaces not accessible by conventional underwater vehicles.
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.