Kongsberg Maritime and Statoil have signed an agreement with Eelume, a spin-off from the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU), to accelerate new technology that it claims will significantly reduce costs related to subsea inspection, maintenance and repair operations.
NTNU and Sintef, an independent research organisation, have conducted research on ‘snake robotics’ for more than 10 years. Eelume is now developing a solution for underwater inspection and maintenance in the form of a swimming robot. The idea is to let these robots do inspection and light intervention jobs on the seabed, reducing the use of large and expensive vessels. With its snake-like form, the slender and flexible body of the Eelume robot provides access to confined areas that are difficult to access with existing technology.
Eelume envisages robots permanently installed on the seabed that would perform planned and on-demand inspections and interventions. The solution can be installed on both existing and new fields where typical jobs include visual inspection, cleaning and adjusting valves and chokes. These jobs account for a large part of the total subsea inspection and intervention spend.
The strength of the collaboration lies in the unique contributions from each of the parties. Eelume was founded by top academics from NTNU, Kongsberg Maritime brings in 25 years of experience and technology development within marine robotics and Statoil provides access to real installations for testing and qualification.
“With our unique expertise in the field of snake robotics Eelume is the first company in the world to bring these amazing robots into an industrial setting. Now we take the step from academia and into the commercial world to secure our place in the new and exciting subsea intervention landscape,” said Pål Liljebäck, chief technical officer at Eelume. “This is a perfect example of how NTNU AMOS can contribute to bringing research-based innovations into the marketplace through new spin-off companies and co-operation with leading industry players. Eelume is already the fifth spin-off company from researchers at NTNU AMOS and the third since 2013. SFF NTNU AMOS is strongly supported by the NTNU management, the Norwegian Research Council, Statoil, DNV GL and SINTEF Group,” said Asgeir J Sørensen, a director at NTNU’s Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems.
“This partnership offers the chance to bring radical technology to the market, not just in what the Eelume robot can do, but how it does it,” said Bjørn Jalving, executive vice president, subsea division at Kongsberg Maritime. “It is a new tool that will enable operators to realise large scale cost savings by introducing new ways of conducting routine tasks and helping to prevent unscheduled shutdowns by reacting instantly when required.”
“Eelume is a good example of how new technology and innovation contributes to cost reduction. Instead of using large and expensive vessels for small jobs, we now introduce a flexible robot acting as a self-going janitor on the seabed. To support smaller companies in bringing new technology to the market is an important part of our research portfolio,” said Statoil’s chief technology officer Elisabeth Birkeland Kvalheim.