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’s being 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.
SeekOps — a sniffing superhero
Originally developed to search for life on Mars, SeekOps is equipped with laser sensors to help us detect methane leaks.
This drone may look like any other flying drone, but this one can “sniff” out methane leaks using laser sensors to detect methane emissions on our production sites.
It has proven extremely useful in United States where the gas industry faces a challenge with methane leaks from production. Applying innovative technologies like infrared cameras and this “sniffing” drone has reduced our emissions by 80% from 2014 to 2018.
Equinor Ventures has invested in methane detection startup SeekOps Inc. The investment in this NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) spin-off follows a successful pilot of SeekOps’ drones equipped with methane detection sensors in Eagle Ford and Bakken assets.
Blueye: the mini drone that saves us time and money
On our Kristin platform in the North Sea, we’re using a simple portable robot to carry out underwater inspections of the seawater intake, and saving millions of kroner in the process.
The crew on our semi-submersible Kristin platform need to inspect their seawater intake three to four times a year. But with daily rates of around 250,000 kroner for an offshore vessel, the cost of such inspections can be upwards of a million kroner per year. But the Blueye Pioneer drone costs less than 100,000 kroner to buy, potentially saving us large sums of money.
Previously, a ship was needed several times a year, to inspect the growth of vegetation (algae, shells and mussels) that threaten to block the seawater intakes on the platform’s fire extinguishing system. But a small portable robot developed in Trondheim by Blueye Robotics has changed everything.
The Blueye drone can easily be sent down by the workers on the platform, without having to wait for ROV operators or divers. Once back on the platform, the pictures can be shared with anyone who has internet access.
Blueye Pioneer is lowered 30 metres straight down from the platform to the sea surface, and is then controlled with a tablet or mobile phone down to the seawater intakes 21 meters further down, inside one of the pontoons. The drone can dive to a depth of 150 metres and be operated via a cable for control signals and transmission of HD images.
Charge it up! Rapid chargers for robots
For underwater robots to be permanently stationed on the seabed and always be ready for use, they’re dependent on being able to charge. We’re developing a universal docking and charging station that will give us greater flexibility to choose the best robots for subsea operations.
Sending robots below the surface takes time, resources and a lot of planning. Traditionally, supply ships and their crews have brought remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, with them out to sea. But if the robots are to have a permanent home on the seabed and always be ready for work, they need somewhere to charge their batteries.
That’s why we have designed a docking station that makes it possible for many types of ROVs to charge and exchange information. We follow the ’universal petrol station principle’ when developing underwater charging stations. Just as one type of pump fits all petrol-driven cars, one type of charging station will fit all electric underwater drones — unlike the conflicting standards and technology wars we see in chargers for electric cars and mobile phones!
Now our new universal charging station is undergoing trials in the Trondheimsfjord, and as more drones are being developed, we hope that they also will adapt to this solution, giving us more freedom to choose the best robots and equipment for subsea work.
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