Saipem has successfully completed sea trials of its new ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), the Innovator 2.0®. ROVs are of vital importance to Saipem’s subsea operations. Indeed, the Company uses its proprietary ROVs to construct and maintain oil fields, including in ultradeep waters, to monitor the seabed and to gather the data necessary for the design of oil fields or subsea pipelines.
The new Heavy Work Class ROV, Innovator 2.0® , is the result of three years of design and testing. It is a benchmark of excellence in terms of subsea robotics, drawing on Saipem’s experience in the construction of underwater facilities, on constant collaborative projects with the best Italian and European research centres, and on the production of components by specialist Italian companies.
In accordance with regulations for the classification of subsea technologies, the Innovator 2.0® has obtained a declaration of compliance with Norsok U102 standards, amongst the most stringent currently in force in the sector, as well as DNV-GL certification . While these certifications are not strictly necessary, they represent a plus compared to competitor ROVs available on the market, since neither the performances nor the characteristics of the latter are guaranteed by an external certification body.
Since 1999, the year in which the first Innovator (version 1.0) was built by Saipem, the Company has been committed to the development of robots that can face the new technological challenges, and so doing has transformed Sonsub (an engineering division specialising in the development of remote subsea technologies) into a point of excellence in the sector. By consolidating its ROV fleet over the years, Saipem has become one of the few operators on the market capable of designing, building and operating its own subsea robots. Saipem has deployed these in almost all its subsea projects under extreme operating conditions, including very shallow and ultradeep water, and the most hostile seas with strong currents and very low levels of visibility. It will also use them in the future, especially given the tendency of the oil&gas market to promote increasingly challenging subsea projects to exploit oil and gas fields in remote areas.
TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INNOVATOR 2.0®
The new Heavy Work Class ROVs, Innovator 2.0®, are a benchmark of excellence in terms of subsea robotics: they are the fruit of 20 years of constant technical improvement and of continuous research into the performance of robots in terms of operational effectiveness and RAM (Reliability, Availability and Maintainability).
Designed for an average life expectancy of over 15 years, and to establish a new state of the art, they are on the cutting edge from a variety of perspectives. The innovations brought by Saipem involve the entire ROV system. On the sea surface, the ergonomics of the console and the Human Machine Interface (HMI) have been redesigned to make the work of pilots less demanding and as efficient as possible. Surface equipment has been designed for installation in a dedicated control room or a container, making the entire Innovator system transportable by land, sea or air.
The umbilical cable and tether have been redesigned to transmit the ship's on-board power to the subsea vehicles. Innovator 2.0 is in fact equipped with an innovative 6600V power supply which allows the ROV to operate effectively even with extremely high cable lengths (up to and over 7000 m). At the same time, the TMS (Tether Management System), which in its base configuration can handle 1100 m of tether, has been optimised to find the best compromise between robustness and weight and to simplify maintenance work.
Finally, the ROV has been designed to ensure that size and weight are contained while guaranteeing all the power needed to perform even the most demanding jobs. The new electrical motor can in fact provide 210Hp which, combined with the extremely high efficiency of the propulsion system, ensures a bollard pull of 1100 kg in each direction, a maximum speed of 3.5 knots and the ability to lift a weight of over 600 kg hooked to the front part of the frame (values certified by DNV-GL). These performances make it suitable for operations in extreme conditions, including very strong sea currents, and to execute works which in the past would have been considered practically impossible.
The electronic control unit, for the most part designed and built by Saipem especially for the Innovator 2.0®, is extremely compact and robust, and is capable of resisting very high pressure levels and extreme temperatures. A high degree of flexibility is guaranteed by a wide array of auxiliary instruments that can be attached to the ROV, enabling a further extension of the vehicle’s capacities and uses. The control system, completely developed by Saipem, runs the ROV’s propulsion plant in a remarkably efficient way, making it particularly easy for the pilot to operate in every type of work situation.
These innovations – combined with the way they have been individually engineered and then integrated into a broader system - have allowed Saipem to build the finest ROVs in the oil&gas sector in terms of both technology and operational effectiveness. Saipem will continue the phase of research and development to ensure that the Innovator 2.0 remains the best ROV on the market and that each new robot produced can implement all the improvements which come to light from the Company's experience in the field.
The NORSOK standard, the highest and most stringent in the sector, was designed by the Norwegian oil industry to ensure adequate levels of safety, added value and cost efficiency for developments and operations in the sector. Conversely, DNV-GL certification covers the classification of all vehicles that operate underwater, such as semi-submersibles, ROVs and AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles).