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Submerged Offshore Pipeline Inspections Made Easy with an ROV

Cody Warner   |   May 16, 2017

Using Remotely Operated Vehicles to perform submerged offshore pipeline inspections to easily monitor and evaluate the system before disaster strikes.


When you think about oil and gas, you often picture the drilling rigs and filling up at the gas station. We understand there are steps in between to deliver the fossil fuels to their final destinations. However, the maintenance of these steps is less understood, especially when we go underwater. There are many inspection methods for pipelines with varying levels of risk, cost, and data produced. The most important point to be made with regards to these inspections is that they must be done; these cannot be put off for another fiscal year, put off for a new contractor, put off because of a change of staff. The inspections ensure that there are no developing structural issues or worse - leaks.

Preventing Leaks by Performing Regular Offshore Pipeline Inspections

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Leaks can be massive and catastrophic, garnering a lot of unwanted negative attention. Having an issue like Deepwater Horizon or Exxon Valdez has obvious environmental degradation, public backlash and safety compromises that you can't wash away with money after the fact. There are also smaller leaks that take place over periods of time that can develop into bigger and more conditions. Some structures have suspected weak points that may soon become leaks. All of these scenarios are avoidable through active efforts to regularly inspect submerged assets.

oil-gas-energy-offshore-pipe-inspectionRegular visual inspections can be done to get a general idea of the condition of these pipelines. By conducting inspections consistently operators can catch small issues before they become catastrophic events. Furthermore, regular inspections allows operators to establish a baseline to identify changes efficiently and safely. Using a camera outside of a pipe will not tell the whole story, but it will tell you where further evaluation is needed and it will catch those potential catastrophes sooner rather than later. Additionally, aging infrastructure is a pressing issue among several industries. As key infrastructure and plants continue to age, the importance of routine inspection continues to grow. Regular visual inspections is a relatively easy task on land, sending an engineer or operator, sometimes an aerial drone to scan for defects. Underwater, it is costly to send divers to perform an inspection and places them at risk. A quick scan using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), commonly known as an underwater drone, is a safe and cost effective method to keep an eye on these pipeline assets.

Divers are undeniably effective however inspections in confined spaces can be incredibly dangerous. Additionally, confined spaces are often also dark and murky adding to the risks involved in diving in tight spots. In such difficult conditions, dives become exponentially more complex as risks such as entanglement, entrapment, and drowning due to diver panic increase exponentially.

In addition to the dangerous nature of dive inspections, the price of divers can be prohibitive. In addition to keeping divers out of dangerous situations entirely, an ROV allows operators to save time and money. Quick deploying and battery powered, an ROV does not require advance scheduling or safety monitoring during inspection allowing users to save both time and money.

If divers are an absolute necessity for a mission, the use of an ROV can aid greatly in keeping those divers safe, especially in confined spaces. The ROV can survey dive areas prior to sending down a human being, checking for any potential safety risks and determining the lay of the land. With an ROV, pre-dive checks are safe and quick - providing dive teams with a reliable way to confirm the safety of their mission.

By piloting an ROV to monitor divers, those topside can ensure that divers are safe and following safety protocols. Real-time video observation allows any issues to be caught promptly with immediate emergency assistance if necessary. Whether open water or confined spaces, real time monitoring is incredibly beneficial for scuba diving safety.

Deep Trekker ROVs have the add-on option of diveable control systems. Completely submersible and depth rated to 75m, the handheld controller allows divers to take the entire Deep Trekker ROV system beneath the surface with them. Allowing divers to work closely with an ROV can improve effectiveness, efficiency and safety. In addition to providing divers with a valuable underwater tool, the diveable controller lets divers check out dangerous spaces without having to go in themselves.

Ownership vs. Contractor

Structural Asset or pipeline owners typically lean toward using inspection contractors to mitigate risk and avoid the cost of purchasing and maintaining the inspection. We wrote an article about this trade-off to help make this decision. The advantages of owning an ROV to perform regular pipeline inspections would be that a contractor would not need to be appointed every time these inspections are conducted, reducing the need to go to bid or tender to perform the inspection. The bureaucratic steps that act as a barrier to performing regular inspections would be removed. This would mean that even small defects that are not actually in need of immediate repair or are not harming the current health of the pipeline, could be monitored closely and have its repair prioritized accordingly; perhaps even until next fiscal year!

Deep Trekker Offshore Pipeline Inspections with Remotely Operated Vehicle

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Remotely operated vehicles or ROVs are unoccupied, highly maneuverable vehicles. Submersible ROVs are simply ROVs that are able to investigate ocean depths or submerged infrastructure while being operated by someone on land or on a vessel. These ROVs allow pilots to take photo and video footage to investigate, inspect and explore underwater.

ROVs can range greatly in both size and price. Submersible or underwater ROVs are used in a variety of industries including military, search and rescue, ocean science, aquaculture, energy including oil and gas, shipping, infrastructure and recreational diving among others.

First tested in the 1960’s by the U.S. Navy, underwater ROVs have evolved into sophisticated, versatile vehicles. The benefits of modern ROVs include quick deployment, minimal maintenance, extended dive times, increased safety, high quality video and photo recording, easy to use, cost effective and access to confined areas.

Deep Trekker has two underwater ROV models; the DTG3 and the REVOLUTION . The DTG3 is an intelligent and advanced vehicle. The mini observation-class vehicle is portable and easy to use, allowing operators to quickly deploy and inspect underwater environments.

Mission-ready with serious payload capabilities and advanced stabilization, the REVOLUTION is a completely re-imagined ROV. The patented pending revolving head allows operators to rotate the camera, manipulators and sonar all while station holding in moving water.

Equipped with a 4k camera and LED lights, Deep Trekker ROVs provide users with a high quality, live view of the submerged infrastructure they are inspecting. In addition to the real-time view, pilots can take photos and videos for further review and documentation.

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 times when answers regarding submerged structures are required immediately. Take for instance one occasion Jon Thomas of the Eugene Water and Electric Board 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. Without an ROV, a diver would have to enter this risky area to determine the issue.

Deep Trekker ROVs are extremely easy to use and maintain. Utilizing innovative magnetic coupling at the seals reduces the need for anyone to be trained on how to maintain the ROV itself because there aren't regular procedures such as oiling or greasing required. A pipeline owner could easily compile a historical log by recording the visual inspections using a Digital Video Recorder or Deep Trekker's new internal 4K camera. This would enable them to see changes over time and evaluate the pipeline using the full picture, not just a single day's inspection. Deep Trekker offers various ROVs for energy installation & pipeline inspections.

Consider making regular inspections part of your structural maintenance program, ask us how today!

If you’re interested in learning more about how Deep Trekker ROVs can assist in the navigation of tight spaces take a look at 5 Ways ROVs Benefit Hydroelectric Plants.

In addition to ROVs Deep Trekker also offers a CCTV Pipe Crawlers and Utility Crawlers. Everything You Need to Know About Pipe Inspection Robots and Industrial Tank Cleaning Robots offer more information about these vehicles.

Ready to create a custom package of your own? Get your quote today! Have more questions? Reach out to our industry experts!

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