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5 Ways ROVs Benefit Hydroelectric Plants

Rachel Doornekamp   |   March 10, 2020

Aging infrastructure is a pressing issue among several industries - including hydroelectric power. As key infrastructure and plants continue to age, the importance of routine inspection continues to grow. Regular inspection and subsequent maintenance of crucial resource facilities is an integral part of infrastructure management programs. Consistent monitoring is necessary to stay on top of the normal wear and tear of day to day operations. In order to provide consistent quality output while reducing inspection and maintenance costs, the monitoring and assessment of relevant new technologies and techniques is imperative.

As submersible technologies continue to advance, new and better tools for consistent inspection are coming down the pipeline. By providing detailed video and images, along with industry specific tools, Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are paving the way of the future for convenient, safe and effective underwater inspection.

Hydroelectric Power

With a multitude of components and combinations making up a hydroelectric power station, each facility requires its own unique inspection processes. The primary goal of these structures is to collect water, run that water through a turbine (effectively turning the turbine and creating energy), and deliver the water out to the other side. Provided that the plant is designed in a way that has minimal impact on the surrounding environment, hydroelectric power is considered to be a safe and reliable source of renewable energy.

In the Canadian province of Quebec, 97% of power is currently supplied through hydroelectricity allowing residents to benefit from the lowest electricity rates in the country. In fact, Quebec is able to generate income for their province by exporting a large portion of their power surplus to neighbouring provinces and states.

Remotely Operated Vehicles in Hydroelectric Plants

Deep Trekker offers two innovative remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), the DTG3 and the REVOLUTION. Robust and reliable, Deep Trekker’s ROVs do not require extensive training or maintenance.

The DTG3 is an innovative and advanced mini observation-class ROV. Providing operators with the ability to quickly deploy and visually inspect rugged underwater environments, the DTG3 is tough, dependable and portable.

The REVOLUTION is a completely, reimagined ROV. Mission-ready with greater payload capabilities, deeper depths and advanced stabilization, the REVOLUTION is ready to work for you.

Both vehicles operate using our BRIDGE technology. Enhancing operation capabilities with a seamless technology platform, BRIDGE provides simplified control and constant communication for an optimized experience.

So how can ROVs benefit hydroelectric plants? Read on!

1. Minimize Diver Use for Hydroelectric Plant Inspection

Divers are commonly used for the regular inspection work of underwater infrastructure in hydroelectric plants. While effective, diver inspections in the confined, dark and murky environments of energy plants can be incredibly dangerous.

The risk to an ROV is much less than the risk to a human life. With the use of an inspection ROV, the danger faced by inspection divers can be effectively mitigated.

In addition to the dangerous nature of dive inspections, the price of divers can be prohibitive. The cost of such risky and specialized services comes at a serious premium, plus the time needed for the extensive diver preparations and scheduling, as well as the support facilities required to support divers, can add up quickly. In lieu of sending a human diver underwater, operators can use an ROV for inspection to effectively reduce the cost of divers.

Deep Trekker spoke to Donald Dupont of GENIFAB to learn more about the role divers and ROVs play in inspection. Dupont said, “The cost of divers was prohibitive for performing preliminary inspections or preventative inspections, it was also difficult to coordinate with their schedules.”

The use of ROVs is an effective, efficient and cost-saving alternative to scheduling divers. Jon Thomas of the Eugene Water and Electric Board noted that, “I could come up with at least 5 times so far where we would have scheduled divers to do what the ROV did.” In swapping an ROV for divers 5 times in a short amount of time, EWEB has been able to generate valuable savings in both time and money.

2. Diver Assistance for Inspections

Ultimately there are specific times when a diver is required over an ROV. In these instances, an ROV is a valuable assistant to divers and dive teams.

For instance, before a diver even enters the water, an ROV can plan and map out the necessary work. By using an ROV to develop and finalize dive plans works to maximize safety and minimize the time required.

While conducting their underwater mission, dive teams can rely on ROVs to provide real-time footage to the topside team. With an extra set of eyes underwater, the topside team can while site operators can assess the work in progress.

Finally, recording footage from inspection dives allows dive teams to assess their work, conduct accurate training and provide clients with valuable footage of their work.

3.Optimize Hydroelectric Plant Operations

ROV inspections provide users with an effective and valuable method of identifying if maintenance needs to be done. If maintenance is required, ROV inspections can determine what kind of work is necessary and where that work is needed.

The use of ROV inspection is a more accurate and reliable way to schedule maintenance in comparison to calendar-based maintenance. By getting high quality, real-time footage of submerged infrastructure plant operators can get a reliable picture of the state of their infrastructure.

Plants can avoid spending money on unneeded work and can prioritize required maintenance instead. Regular ROV inspection allows operators to catch minor issues before they become major catastrophes. With regular ROV inspection companies are able to budget efficiently and effectively, while keeping infrastructure running smoothly.

In addition to assisting divers, the use of an ROV can help teams optimize their use of divers. Jon Thomas, pointed to occasions where the ROV was being used to evaluate the accumulation of debris on the intake trash racks allowing the Utility to optimize the use of hired divers when needed.

4. Get Eyes Underwater Immediately

There are times when answers regarding submerged structures are required immediately. Take for instance one occasion Jon Thomas shared with Deep Trekker, “Thomas and his team noticed that the stoplogs were unable to create a watertight seal, leaving the crew unable to control the water as they needed. Using the ROV, they could see the debris that hindered the beams’ ability to create a seal. The debris was then quickly located and removed, allowing the team to continue on with minimal fuss.”

The ability to conduct underwater inspections at a moment’s notice is greatly beneficial in maximizing efficiency as operators can quickly clear up minor issues and problems. There are just times when an immediate answer is absolutely necessary.

Having an ROV on site allows operators to get eyes underwater right away for emergencies large and small. With an ROV, users don’t have to waste valuable time waiting for a dive team.

5. Operations Stay Open During Inspection

One of the major benefits of using an ROV for inspection purposes in a hydroelectric plant is that the plant does not have to be shut down for inspections to take place. Plants can only profit when they are operational. A universal challenge faced by hydroelectric plants is the issue of balancing the cost/benefit of shutting plants down to perform necessary inspections and repairs.

Draining or dewatering tanks is also an expensive and labour intensive undertaking. The time, equipment and organization required to drain and refill submerged infrastructure is astronomical.

With an ROV, hydroelectric plants are able to conduct important inspections without having to shut down production or drain tanks. Dupont noted that, “we can inspect a draft tube on one group while the other groups are operating.”

The ability to conduct inspections while simultaneously running operations offers incredible value and convenience to plant operators.

You can learn more about ROVs in hydroelectric plants in our Hydroelectric ROV Inspections blog. Ready to create a custom ROV package of your own? Get your quote today! Have more questions? Reach out to our industry experts!