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Robot repairs in depth

March 27, 2007, 13:30 CEST

A pipeline repair robot for water depths down to 1,000 metres is being developed by Statoil in a further conformation of its world leadership with technology for such transport facilities.

The new remotely operated welding machine will undergo testing and final adjustments before being deployed in an emergency response role during the year.

"We’re getting a lot of enquiries from international oil and gas companies," says Kjell Edvard Apeland, who is heading the development job.

"They’re interested in using our robot for pipeline repair and field operations in such areas as the Gulf of Mexico."

Work on the new device is taking place in Haugesund north of Stavanger, where Statoil’s pipeline repair system (PRS) pool is located.

The robot will join a number of other remotely operated tools used in deepwater operations, including tie-in of new pipelines in water depths beyond the reach of divers.

Measuring about four metres long by two metres high, the new welding machine has been developed by Statoil and built in cooperation with external suppliers.


The robot cuts out the damaged pipe section before welding in a new piece inside an enclosed habitat. Systems are provided for preheating and controlling the habitat atmosphere.

A submarine pipeline can be damaged by a shipwreck, for instance, or by having a trawl or anchor dragged over it.

"Many technological experts say that developing such technology and carrying out operations of this kind are more difficult than a moon landing," says Asbjørn Erdal.

He is manager of the pipeline operation sector, which maintains 8,000 kilometres of pipeline and will probably be the biggest customer for the new robot.

The Norwegian government requires that oil and gas distributors have such equipment available. Regulations restrict diving to a maximum water depth of 180 metres.

Statoil currently has a deepwater emergency response system based on remotely operated vehicles which can seal leaks. With the new robot, the group will also be able to weld pipes.

One application for the device will be pipeline repairs on the Ormen Lange field in the Norwegian Sea, where water depths are 800-1,100 metres.

The animation shows how the robot operates on the seabed, remotely operated from a surface vessel.

Launch the video and see the robot repair a pipeline.