Marlin’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Successful inspections in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrate autonomous underwater vehicle’s speed, affordability
When hurricanes blow through the Gulf of Mexico, it can take energy companies more than a week to inspect their rigs and pipelines before returning production levels of off-shore oil and natural gas back to normal.
After its Marlin™ Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) recently conducted the oil and gas industry’s first commercial unmanned off-shore platform and site inspections in the Gulf, Lockheed Martin believes it can help companies re-start production faster and more affordably.
During its two weeks at sea, the Marlin successfully inspected fixed platforms, the surrounding seabed and partially decommissioned work sites undergoing the final stages of clearance activities.
Operating from a small utility class vessel, the 10-foot long AUV logged more than 62 hours of submerged operations covering 72 miles of seabed. While at sea, Marlin generated 3-D geo-referenced models of the platforms and surrounding seabed, creating an accurate view of the area.
“Marlin is an example of how we can apply existing technologies to solve new problems in adjacent markets,” said Dan McLeod, Lockheed Martin’s Marlin program manager. “Our systems can allow the industry to conduct more frequent and higher quality inspections at lower costs than traditional methods.”
Marlin’s 3-D models provide companies with a full view of the area surrounding a structure and the ability to perform metrology of the structures and seabed. The models enabled accurate plans to be made for an upcoming subsea recovery operation within days of deploying the salvage vessel, as opposed to days or weeks using traditional remotely operated vehicle or diver inspection methods.
The Marlin essentially creates a window below the surface of the water that allows operators to manage what they typically cannot see. The inspections in the Gulf of Mexico validated the Marlin’s ability to provide faster, smarter and more frequent subsea infrastructure inspections for the oil and gas industry.
Posted on November 27, 2012