As the offshore sector continues to move into deeper waters, the search to find suitable and reliable machinery continues.
New developments offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil are now seeing water depths of more than 1,500 metres, whilst 2013 saw the record broken for the deepest ever drill support ROV activity of 3,165 metres, in India.
With the increase in deepwater activities, the need for ROVs capable of operating at such depths are now becoming standard practice. So what is the industry doing to meet these challenges?
Infield Systems' Deep and Ultra-deepwater market report to 2018 provides a positive outlook to the industry that technology investment is beginning to happen.
This included reporting back on:
- A forecast capital growth rate of around 8% between 2014 and 2018 in the industry
- Developments in offshore Brazil will act as a key driver of global demand comprising of 32% of total deepwater Capex over 5 years
- Emergence of FLNG technology will drive need for ROV investment
- Growth in deep and ultradeep developments globally
- Significant investment made by operators in deep and ultra-deepwater
The final fact above is what makes the future of ROV exciting. It has been estimated in the report that a 81 operators will funnel direct capital expenditure towards the deep and ultra-deepwater sector over the next 4 years to 2018.
This, a huge increase from 55 operators over the previous 2009-2013 period.
Expenditure by water depth graph
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
Interestingly, the increase in ROV technology has meant AUVs are also beginning to have a look in in the oil and gas sector.
Despite the ability to be used for autonomous inspections, as well as seabed surveys and long-loiter surveys, AUVs have a small role to play currently in the field.
Without the need for human input and the ability to work at deep water depths, this technology is successfully hanging onto the coattail of ROVs in its rise in popularity and investment.
Future of ROV market
The holy grail after all this investment is to create an ROV that requires no human intervention. Automation is the buzzword and finding a solution for a continual 'pilot' will mean money and resource saved.
ROVs are likely to become more competitive in the future, pushing divers out of underwater projects entirely. The ability to work in more difficult conditions but with more accuracy certainly appeals to the operators - and why would it not considering safety of staff is kept to a minimum and operating costs are reduced too.
Across the offshore subsea sector, ROVs are now seen as indispensable, with the ability to work on many subsea applications in the field.
Continual investment by the industry will make these machines smarter and more efficient meaning the search for resources in difficult, secluded and deeper waters can begin.