Abstract

This abstract discusses the development of a multimission, autonomous sensor platform and describes applications ranging from measuring metocean parameters to detecting oil seeps in a cost effective manner with full Service Quality and HSE compliance. Examples from Gulf of Mexico and other offshore areas of the world demonstrate how persistent, unmanned mobile monitoring platforms have proved beneficial and effective to offshore exploration and production efforts, moving this technology from a state of infancy towards maturity.

Accurate meteorological and oceanographic data are essential for developing climate models and weather forecasts used in planning offshore exploration and production operations. A new remotely controlled, autonomous marine vehicle (AMV) supports a variety of sensors for conducting detailed metocean surveys across vast distances and under extreme conditions. To gather this data we use a wave powered AMV that harnesses kinetic energy from wave action to produce locomotion in the ocean, while remaining environmentally friendly and fuel-free; the vehicle is completely self-sustaining using solar panels to power its payloads. The platform includes navigational and control systems with communication to an operations center via satellite.

Once deployed the AMV uses no crew, requires no fuel and produces no emissions, thus eliminating both risk to personnel and impact on the environment. For less than the cost of a moored buoy or a vessel and crew, the vehicle provides mobility and long-range endurance for extended ocean monitoring missions. The propulsion system allows it to hold station in tidal or eddy currents. It simply steers to a designated waypoint—a programmed set of geographic coordinates. When it approaches the limits of a predefined watch circle, it turns around and heads back to the same point repeatedly. The AMV can maintain station for long durations with a watch circle of 25 to 50 m [82 to 164 ft], depending on currents and sea state. By contrast, the mooring systems of deep-ocean buoys employ ground tackle that produces a much wider watch circle the AMV can accommodate a broad range of off-the-shelf or custom sensors to fit the needs of the mission. A GPS receiver not only determines vehicle position, it provides a precise time stamp for all data recorded on the mission. Photovoltaic panels keep lithium-ion batteries charged to support WiFi, cellular or satellite communications systems, onboard data processing and various payloads.

This technology can and has assisted clients in providing early warning signs from a meteorological and oceanographic perspective for better managing risks and making critical decisions in protecting personnel and assets on installations both manned and unmanned. Value is enhanced when a number of these sensors are deployed on a swarm of vehicles to conduct pre-site baseline surveys for risk and insurance management.

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