Expanded Role for ROVs in Maintenance of Offshore Projects

10-Mar-2011 The advent of sophisticated remote operated vehicles (ROV) has provided inspection and reporting solutions required for a growing number of marine infrastructure projects.

Vehicles such as the Seaeye Falcon have enabled accurate, efficient, and to a large degree, weather-independent maintenance monitoring of critical infrastructure.

These remotely operated robotic vehicles have assisted in monitoring the condition of prime components and fittings associated with desalination plants, subsea telecommunications and international power cables.

Bill Bulloch of the Gold Coast based company ROV Downunder said the  global ROV business market had flourished and evolved in recent years with the rapid increase in different marine markets, for example offshore wind farms in the Netherlands, Norway and the UK.

“Thanks to the latest in ROV technology, our services are in demand, not only in Australia where much of our work relates to compliance issues with local and federal laws for the monitoring and maintenance of pipelines, tunnels, tanks and others. These are associated with plant that has to be inspected regularly, in particular, inspection relating to warranty and maintenance issues on desalination plants.

“Desalination plants have been commissioned or are currently under construction in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. There is no doubt these plants will increasingly become a standard part of Australian cities’ water supply solutions.

“We see an expanded role for remote operated vehicles in ensuring underwater fixtures operate efficiently. The vehicles and available tooling will evolve and complement the new generation of tunnel cleaning equipment we currently have under development,” Bill said.

“Preventive maintenance schedules for marine and inland water resources require regular inspection of concrete walls, sediment build-up in tunnels, dam and harbour walls, jetties and pilings.

“This type of inspection work has traditionally been carried out by dive teams. Older, larger, typically hydraulically powered, ROVs are now being replaced by smaller vehicles such as the Seaeye Falcon and others which are more compact, powerful, versatile and mobile. They are considerably more efficient and less expensive to operate.

“Of course, dive teams are still needed for many of the ‘hands-on’ jobs, for example to make repairs to concrete walls. However ROVs are being used for simple intervention tasks. These include opening and closing valves and removal of objects.

“ROVs offer major benefits for our clients. Engineers can sit next to the ROV pilot and see live what the ROV is seeing, so they can help us direct the ROV to look more closely at individual areas of interest

“Dive teams have traditionally confronted safety issues and often these have added to the project cost, for example, with divers you need a standby diver as well as support and backup teams including a medical officer. ROVs avoid time issues – they can go into the water 24/7 if needed.

“Turbidity levels often make it visually difficult for dive teams when you can barely see your hand in front of your face. The latest ROVs can deploy sonar imaging and the new LYYN video enhancement technology. This device sits between the video output of the ROV and the video recording equipment and ‘cleans up’ the video image, live or in post processing by picking out hard edges to improve visibility.

“There is some new high definition sonar equipment becoming available that will produce a 3D image of say, bridge pilings that will show you where the scouring and other damage may be occurring around the piles, Bill said.

A Falcon ROV is used for routine maintenance inspection and small tasks on Sydney’s
Desalination Plant. (Photo: ROV Downunder)

ROVs provide detailed video images of pipe maintenance status (Photo: ROV Downunder)

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