A shapeshifter is changing the rules of ocean space inspection

Dec 20, 2021 | News

Argeo is on a mission to transform the ocean surveying and inspection industry. How? By adapting advanced robotics and sophisticated sensor technology to the tough requirements of offshore wind and oil & gas. As the latest in a series of bold moves to disrupt the sector, Argeo is now teaming up with the shape-changing underwater robot Eelume.

snake robot eelume underwater

Emerging from more than 10 years of research in snake robotics, Eelume is probably one of the world’s most advanced AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle). In short, it is a “snake” robot ruggedised to live and work underwater. Its narrow body, consisting of modules linked together by flexible joints, enables it to access areas that conventional ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) are unable to reach. Another significant feature of Eelume is its ability to “sleep” on the ocean floor, waiting to be activated at short notice in case of an emergency.

Eelume fits perfectly with the strategic goals of Argeo. As an upcoming player in the ocean surveying and inspection industry, Argeo is determined to disrupt it with ground-breaking technology integrating autonomous vehicles, advanced sensor systems and high-power algorithms.

Smarter and more sustainable

The Argeo idea is to go smaller, smarter and more sustainable. By replacing large, expensive and labour-intensive surface vessels with small, unmanned vehicles, it offers the oil & gas and offshore wind industries a way to dramatically reducing the effort of performing underwater surveying and inspection.

On top of that, Argeo’s sensor systems provide data that has not been possible to acquire before creating a new decision base for our customers as well as producing a much more detailed image than before of what lies underneath the ocean surface, opening opportunities for new projects that might have been deemed too risky or expensive due to lack of sufficient data.

– We are offering a completely new service, Argeo CEO Trond Crantz explains. With the most efficient subsea data acquisition robots in the world, we are introducing a completely new way of performing survey and inspection.

The traditional players in this market are using large surface vessels and expensive equipment requiring a great deal of manpower and a lot of time to perform survey and inspection. Our autonomous vehicles and advanced sensor systems can do it much cheaper, and on top of that with much higher data quality.

Autonomous subsea robot and subsea installations

Image: KONGSBERG Maritime

Reducing vessel related costs

According to Trond Crantz, Argeo can significantly reduce the industry’s costs related to inspection of subsea assets and infrastructure. Currently, 90% of these costs are vessel related. Implementing Eelume and other advanced inspection tools for offshore wind and oil & gas will replace up to 70% of vessel activities, Trond Crantz estimates.

That is good news to the sector, because currently it’s searching high and low for solutions increasing efficiency and reducing the cost of survey and inspection. Not least to deliver on the increasingly important parameters of sustainability and ESG.

–  Regarding the offshore wind sector, when you’re in renewable energy you will always be looking for opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of your business, says Crantz. That is why the industry is very interested in autonomous underwater robots and small, unmanned surface vessels, with low CO2-emmision compared to conventional solutions involving large, manned survey ships. That goes for the oil & gas sector as well. In all the large oil & gas companies, reducing CO2-emmisions is high on the agenda, Crantz continues.

As Trond Crantz points out, Argeo’s technology has another important advantage, seen from an ESG perspective: It reduces risk for the people involved. By taking the humans out of the loop Argeo can significantly de-risk inspection and maintenance routines.

Pieces of the puzzle

Argeo is adding Eelume to its fleet of AUVs, consisting of SeaRaptor and Hugin robots. Furthermore, Argeo is combining these AUVs with its new Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), managed from an onshore mission control centre, further reducing the manpower needed and the risk of performing ocean survey and inspection.

However, AUVs and USVs are only some of the pieces of the Argeo puzzle. An even more important piece is the sophisticated, tailor-made sensor system they are carrying. It collects geophysical, hydrographic, and geological data to produce uniquely detailed knowledge of the subsurface landscape. For instance, it can assist in the positioning of floating wind turbines, scanning the ocean floor to find the best anchoring points for them. Or it can inspect oil and gas pipelines to determine if they need servicing.

– Time is our biggest enemy, when it comes to sub-surface infrastructure, Trond Crantz explains. Over time the integrity of the equipment decreases. So, we need to know exactly when to do maintenance and repair, neither too early nor too late. Our inspection robots provide the data needed to perform this just-in-time maintenance, based on the actual condition of the equipment. Such an approach saves cost.

Digital Ocean Space

In all of this, data is the key factor. Harnessing the power of the most efficient data acquisition robots in the world, Argeo is collecting and combining the data they’re producing to create a unique digital ecosystem. Called Digital Ocean Space, it will offer an extremely detailed digital representation of the sea floor and of the physical subsea infrastructure installed.

By continuously feeding sensor data from Eelume and other sensor carriers into this digital twin, Argeo will be able to give its customers a “time machine” to follow how their subsea assets are evolving, across the whole lifecycle, from installation to decommissioning. An initial version of Argeo’s Digital Ocean Space will be launched early next year.

As mentioned, Eelume fits perfectly with Argeo’s strategic goals. The innovativeness and flexibility of this shape-changing underwater robot may even serve as a metaphor to describe Argeo’s current role in the ocean surveying and inspection industry:

Trond Crantz believes that real change will come from young, flexible and innovative companies like his. He considers Argeo a disruptive force in the industry, offering a new mindset and a complete technology stack, to rationalize operations and to solve the headache caused by a growing number of increasingly complex subsea installations. And by doing things in a smarter way, making the industry more sustainable as well.

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Eelume underwater robot video: