The oil and gas industry has been focusing on enhancing safety, reliability, and reducing costs associated with subsea surveillance and inspections. Emerging robotic and sensing systems, as enabling technologies, are being adopted and adapted by ExxonMobil in various applications. This paper presents multiple use cases where ExxonMobil has utilized these systems to address the challenges within our operations, more specifically, miniature remotely operated vehicles (mini-ROVs) and shallow-water autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), along with the learnings from these applications and proposed future systems.
Mini-ROVs equipped with optical and acoustic sensors are currently being used by ExxonMobil for the inspection of hulls, platforms, and mooring chains. After achieving favorable results with miniature systems that are remotely operated, there was a natural shift towards autonomy. Low-logistics shallow-water AUVs equipped with sidescan sonar, multibeam sonar, and optical cameras are now being utilized by ExxonMobil for pipeline inspections and environmental surveys. The successful experiences from both robotic systems have built a strong foundation for ExxonMobil as the industry's interest in subsea resident systems increases.
Successful pilot tests by ExxonMobil conducted in the past couple of years have demonstrated that a large support vessel and extensive human intervention can be eliminated. The utilization of emerging robotic and sensing systems for subsea surveillance and inspections has proven to enhance safety and reduce cost by an order of magnitude when compared to conventional techniques.