January 23rd 1960 – Jacques Piccard’s 10-km descent into the Mariana Trench using Trieste was mankind’s deepest dive ever. Trieste’s ‘little’ achievement not only added to the efforts of those who wanted to explore the deep seas but also empowered those who were working on Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). These tethered underwater mobile devices became an important tool for the offshore oil and gas industry in overcoming human limitations. Today, when transoceanic activities have increased multifold to discover hydrocarbons beneath the sea, the introduction of ROV in oil and gas industry has enabled access to even the most isolated and unexplored regions.
In this article, let us understand how ROVs have paved the path for further exploration deep down in the sea. As the article will near completion, we’ll also have a look at how the ROV market is coming up in the near future!
Reaching unexplored areas
Offshore drilling operations began in 1897; almost 4 decades after Col. Edwin Drake had drilled the first well in 1859. Presently, there are almost 900 large-scale O&G platforms around the world which are operating in offshore conditions.
With offshore drilling operations, came a series of safety requirements and need of underwater intervention and observation. It was not until the mid-19th century that ROVs started to tackle this challenge for the oil and gas industry. ROVs are described as underwater robots, wherein numerous monitoring and control equipment, launch and recovery systems, umbilical controls and winches are put together. Most of the technological advancements that happened in the area of ROVs were funded by the US Navy. In their quest to develop robots to recover underwater artillery lost during sea tests, they pursued ROV development to its operational state.
ROVs remain neutrally buoyant in water, thanks to their robust design and integrated buoyancy units. Their performance underwater is largely dictated by the hydrodynamic behavior and marine architectural principles. ROVs are generally classified into two categories based on their purpose: – Work-class ROVs, which can perform a number of tasks and Observation-class ROVs (OBSROVs), which are mostly used for underwater surveying and inspection. There are a lot many other small-sized vehicles, as well as large sized ones.
ROVs find a wide application across the complete framework of the oil and gas industry, right from exploration to construction and operations, to decommissioning. In its most primitive application, ROVs are deployed to probe underwater regions in order to detect environmental sensitivities or geological hazards.
In modern times, the ‘eyes and hands in the sea’ are supporting numerous operations. From police departments to big oil giants, ROVs have greatly enabled deep sea exploration for different sectors. The ROV market has been ever-growing and the figures totally speak in favor of it. A report released by Mordor Intelligence portrays ROV market as a rapidly growing sector of the global offshore oil & gas market.
Technological advancements in recent years have facilitated a huge growth in the installation of subsea infrastructure, thereby allowing oil and gas companies to reach greater water depths in search of fossils. ROVs have now become rather an indispensable part of modern oil and gas projects. The report also depicts rising demand for ROVs and related services, citing the increase in production from offshore reserves and a surge in decommissioning old fixed production facilities as the main reasons. ROVs are now attracting sizeable investment, and it’ll be interesting to observe its growth in the coming decade.
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