Norwegian-owned N-Sea and academics from the University of Strathclyde have won funding to automate and speed up the inspection of pipelines running under the sea.
The collaboration will combine the subsea service provider's expertise in running remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) with data analytics research from the university's Institute of Sensors, Signals and Communications. The work is being supported by funding from the Data Lab Innovation Centre, which was set up in 2014 in Edinburgh with £11.3 million of public money to help industry tap into “big data” in the pursuit of new markets and higher productivity.
David Murray, survey and inspection manager at N-Sea, said the project has the potential to “transform” pipeline inspection operations.
“As a world-leader in subsea pipeline inspections, we have seen ROV technology evolve significantly over the years,” he said. “However, inspection operations still require ROV pilots and inspection engineers who annotate the data required.
“By working closely together, we aim to automate the inspection process and operate ROVs at previously impossible speeds.”
Though sensors and high-definition cameras have led to rapid evolution in subsea inspections during the past decade, documenting the explanatory commentary on what they find remains a largely manual process. N-Sea and the university say the techniques they intend to use have never before been attempted in the extreme subsea environment.
The university's Christos Tachtatzis said his team is excited about the prospect of advancing academic research into this field.
“We have a long tradition of conducting industrially-relevant research with high economic, environmental and societal impacts, and this is a prime example of the challenges we seek to provide solutions for,” he added. “Owing to the support of the Data Lab, we are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration with N-Sea.”
Headquartered in the Netherlands, N-Sea established its first base in the UK with the 2014 acquisition of the subsea division of Stork Technical Services. The Dutch firm provides near shore, offshore and survey services to both major operators and smaller companies.