Ocean Infinity and Shell Plan to Hunt for Seeps With Unmanned Vessels

Image courtesy Ocean Infinity

Published Nov 18, 2020 6:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

Dutch supermajor Shell and the survey and search company Ocean Infinity have signed an agreement to join forces on hunting subsea seeps. Shell has extensive experience in seep hunting as an offshore oil and gas heavyweight, and Ocean Infinity will bring to bear its future "Armada" fleet of autonomous ships and autonomous underwater vehicles to carry out the search. 

The partners expect that this combination will bring down risk, improve the reliability of their results and provide multiple clients with wide area search coverage. 

Ocean Infinity expects that its "Armada" fleet will be operational next year. The autonomous vessels are designed to conduct over-the-side launch and recovery of Ocean Infinity's AUVs, "with zero people required at sea." The absence of human mariners and operators will mean higher safety, the firm believes. 

“Historically the most fruitful and successful collaborations are formed during the most challenging times. Ocean Infinity is very excited to begin our new multiclient data chapter, and we are especially delighted to commence this endeavour with Shell," said Katya Krylova, VP of oil and gas business development at Ocean Infinity. “Refining our ability to conduct tasks such as seep hunting using uncrewed technology opens up possibilities in so many other areas; the experience gained as a result of this collaboration could prove transferable to other offshore tasks such as carbon capture storage (CCS) monitoring."

The Armada fleet will be remotely controlled and operated by mariners via satellite communications from onshore facilities in Texas and England, and the deployment plan calls for no crew on board and no manned support vessel alongside. According to Ocean Infinity, its fleet system will yield a carbon emissions reduction of as much as 90 percent when compared with conventional survey vessels.

Each unmanned surface vessel will be equipped for offshore data acquisition and intervention operations, including remotely deploying AUVs and ROVs. Sustained blue water AUV and ROV operations have traditionally been enabled by teams of human deckhands and technicians, with manning requirements driven by launch and recovery methods and the complexity and maintenance demands of the equipment (below).