Aker BP to use DeepOcean-operated unmanned surface vessel

Ocean services provider DeepOcean and NCS operator Aker BP have agreed to pioneer the use of an unmanned surface vessel (USV) for subsea inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) and survey work.    

The first USV is planned to be ready for offshore operations from 2025, when it will go on an eight-year charter agreement with DeepOcean from specialist provider USV AS.

Aker BP and DeepOcean already cooperate under a frame agreement for subsea IMR and survey work, and Aker BP has contributed to the development of the USV. The two companies share a long-term ambition to move 30 percent of IMR work from traditional vessels to USVs. 

“We have collaborated with DeepOcean for many years on development of remotely controlled subsea operations, and unmanned operations is a natural next step of this development. Our technology strategy is rooted in a desire to reduce both emissions and costs. This is an agenda that DeepOcean shares,” says Torbjørg Opedal, VP Subsea at Aker BP.

It is estimated that the USV solution can reduce CO2 emissions with more than 90 percent compared to a conventional offshore vessel when conducting subsea IMR operations.

Remotely controlled

The USV will be 24 metres long and 7.5 metres wide. It will be remotely controlled from shore – but will have many autonomous features to ensure safety and integrity of the spread. It can operate in severe weather conditions. During operations, both the USV vessel crew and ROV operators will be co-located in the same remote operating centre.

“Aker BP constantly encourages and challenges the supplier industry to develop solutions that can reduce the cost and environmental footprint that is normally associated with offshore operations. More importantly, they work in partnership with us to realise the solutions. Their support underlines the attractiveness of unmanned and remotely operated vessel technologies, which will benefit both Aker BP and DeepOcean,” says Øyvind Mikaelsen, CEO of DeepOcean.

To increase the USVs workable weather window, it will be equipped with a newly developed launch and recovery system which allows for work class ROVs to be operated from relatively small vessels, such as the USV.

The USV will be equipped with a work ROV that is capable of operating down to 1,500 metres water depth, plus a sizeable tool package to perform subsea operations. The USV will be capable of handling most of all subsea inspection work, survey work and a significant part of subsea intervention tasks.

“Once the USV is constructed, tested and ready for offshore operations, Aker BP look forward to utilising it on our subsea fields. It is a smart solution that enables us to deploy well-known subsea technologies, but without bringing a large vessel or an unnecessary amount of personnel offshore,” says Jarle Marius Solland, Aker BP’s operations manager – subsea execution & survey.  

The USV will be equipped with a hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system and a battery package which allows the unmanned vessel to operate offshore for up to 30 days without charging or refuelling.

Image caption: illustration of the USV.

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