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Robotic solutions vs. divers in splash zone operations

OceanTech’s robotic solutions for splash zone operations do not require the use of any offshore divers. This provides several benefits to your business, including improved safety, significant cost savings, and reduced carbon emissions.

Improved safety

Using divers in offshore operations generally carries significant risks. The environment presents a number of hazards such as poor lighting, restricted oxygen supply, and sometimes extreme temperatures or pressures. 

Offshore diving risks, however, are not limited to drowning or decompression sickness following deep dives. Inspections and maintenance work in the splash zone, the part of the offshore structure immediately above and below the waterline, also pose serious hazards to divers. Strong winds, currents, and large waves affect diving safety. In the North Sea, although partially sheltered from the Atlantic by Britain, wave heights can reach 10-15 meters or higher. But even 2-meter waves, or currents alone, can cause crush injuries when diving in confined spaces. Underwater entanglement, or marine vessel impact, can also cause serious injuries to divers.

OceanTech offers a range of tools and techniques, ranging from lightweight robotic solutions to more heavy-duty solutions with industrial standard robotic arms. All tools and techniques are designed to avoid any use of divers or support vessels, improving operational safety significantly. There is no manual handling, which would be required when using divers, and our splash zone tools allow unmanned working close to structures in the harsh splash zone environment. Our splash zone tooling also provides a stable platform that enables the deployment of sensors, cameras, probes, and other inspection tools, which would have been impossible using divers.

Significant cost savings

Safety concerns aside, using divers in splash zone operations is also expensive. Safety concerns aside, using divers in splash zone operations is also expensive. Although rates vary significantly across continents, offshore divers require a large team topside, with support vessels frequently carrying more than 50 project personnel on board. This includes divers, supervisors, technicians, ROV pilots, survey teams, client personnel, vessel crew, and others. As the scope of a task grows, so does the size of the team – as well as the cost of operation. In the North Sea, the total cost for an offshore diving operation could easily exceed EUR 100,000 per day.

A considerable proportion of the vessels in use in the North Sea are also aging and have proven to be expensive to maintain. In recent years, largely driven by the rise in oil prices, the increased demand for support vessels is pushing prices higher.

Compared to using divers, OceanTech’s approach results in superior cost savings. In an Ekofisk oil field pilot, our solutions managed to achieve total savings of EUR 1.9 million for ConocoPhillips in a single year. The Exploration & Production company had previously relied on divers. Our use of splash zone tools achieves 100% coverage internally or externally and does not require any assistance from divers, ROVs, or support vessels. The cost savings are not least due to reduced man-hours. Our robotic solutions for remote cleaning, inspection, and maintenance only require a team of 3 to 5 persons. You also avoid lengthy and costly waits due to unpredictable weather. Divers only working in the water for a couple of hours, together with the normal diver window of just a few days, leads to work completion is highly dependent on favorable weather conditions. 

The cost savings are even greater in the aquaculture industry, where businesses rely on far more frequent inspections of nets, barges, and structures. As the industry moves further and further from shore, we have the technology and expertise required to help businesses complete work in a cost-effective manner.

Reduced carbon emissions

Global attention around carbon emissions is driving major offshore companies to look at how CO2  releases can be reduced in production, power generation, and operations. This has been demonstrated by major companies such as Equinor, which has issued plans to cut carbon intensity in half by 2050, and Lundin Energy (formerly known as Lundin Petroleum) announced carbon neutral targets, and a name change to remove the «petroleum» reference to reflect the industry’s energy transition. Another oil and gas supermajor, BP, has also set out its ambition to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. 

As offshore companies look to reduce emissions from their supply chains, our technology could become part of the solution. Offshore support vessels can output thousands of tonnes of CO2 every year, as well as significant amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx). With OceanTech, all splash zone tools are launched from the structure itself, minimizing the need for support vessels. This enables companies in offshore oil and gas, as well as in the offshore fish farming and offshore wind industry, to cut CO2 emissions from operations significantly.

As techniques and solutions for splash zone operations continue to evolve, industry professionals are asking themselves whether to use divers or robotic solutions. While the question may be simple, the answer depends on a multitude of factors including the scope of the task, local marine environment, and project complexity. Ultimately though, everything boils down to safety, cost, and carbon footprint.

Our track record includes successful operations in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and Australia. Our team of engineers and technicians constantly seek new and innovative ways of working, to maintain OceanTech’s position as the preferred supplier of underwater splash zone tooling on a global scale.