Equinor awarding pioneering wireless subsea drone contract

October 2, 2019 13:03 CEST | Last modified October 11, 2019 09:49 CEST

Equinor, on behalf of the Njord licence, has awarded Saipem a subsea service contract using a wireless underwater intervention drone and an ROV. 

This contract will make Equinor the first user of technology expected to be completed in 2020. 

“This is a historic contract in the oil and gas industry. It is the first contract signed for the use of advanced wireless drone services. We are pleased to secure a contract that will bring subsea technology a big step forward. Equinor aims to help shape the development of this type of technology, which this contract underscores,” says Anders Opedal, executive vice president, Technology, Projects & Drilling.

The services from Saipem Limited Norway Branch will be employed when the Njord field resumes production in 2020. Lasting for ten years, the contract has five 2-year options for additional extension. The value of the fixed part of the contract is estimated at about EUR 40 million.  The contract lays down requirements for permanent presence in Norway and Norwegian-speaking personnel.

The new technology employs an underwater intervention drone (Hydrone-R) and an all-electric work class ROV (Hydrone-W). The drone may be autonomous below Njord for months between scheduled maintenance, whereas Hydrone-W will be connected to the platform like a traditional ROV. Both are electric and can be operated without a surface vessel. The use of this technology will therefore contribute to significant carbon reduction. In addition, the response time will be reduced. Furthermore, the operations will not be dependent on weather conditions.

“It is very exciting to be a pioneer for this type of technology offshore. Enabling personnel to plan and perform operations from shore rather than being flown offshore, this pathbreaking technology will also reduce costs,“ says Olav A. Godø, operations manager, Njord.

Equinor’s proprietary docking station for data transmission and subsea induction charging will be installed below Njord and used by the underwater drone.

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Roberto Di Silvestro (left), head of Sonsub at Saipem, Giovanni Chiesa, head of subsea engineering and underwater technologies at Saipem, Sophie Hildebrand, chief technology officer Equinor, Hans Henrik Nygaard, procurement Equinor, and Gry Lindboe, manager procurement Equinor. (Photo: Arne Reidar Mortensen)
Roberto Di Silvestro (left), head of Sonsub at Saipem, Giovanni Chiesa, head of subsea engineering and underwater technologies at Saipem, Sophie Hildebrand, chief technology officer Equinor, Hans Henrik Nygaard, procurement Equinor, and Gry Lindboe, manager procurement Equinor. (Photo: Arne Reidar Mortensen)

Tasks 

  • Hydrone-W will be used for heavy intervention work. It can be operated from a Njord control room, or from shore.  It is expected to be fully developed in 2021. Hydrone-R will perform similar tasks, but has been assigned a janitor role for quick response in unexpected situations.
  • Traditionally, it has taken two to three days to mobilise personnel offshore for this type of unexpected situations. Hydrone-R is able to move over long distances under water, and can also perform other tasks.  It may, for example, manoeuvre to the neighbouring Hyme installation, 20 kilometres away, for required intervention tasks.
  • Hydrone-R is expected to be fully developed in early 2020.