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Clean Sea

Clean Sea is the first autonomous robot we have developed using proprietary technology to monitor and inspect underwater Oil & Gas plants.

Technology

Clean Sea is an innovative underwater robotic technology designed to automatically perform environmental monitoring tasks and inspect offshore plants. It is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with the ability to steer itself and move independently at sea without the need for any contact with operators on the surface, accurately identifying any anomalies in its environment. The robot, which won the National Innovation Award 2014, uses a technology that has been successfully tested in a variety of marine environments and consists of an advanced underwater vehicle featuring interchangeable sensors and designed to use a single integrated system. Clean Sea also has the ability to adapt its own mission strategy independently and in real time based on how the sensors respond, thus optimising both the cost and the duration of the exercise. It is used for environmental monitoring and inspecting offshore installations in the Mediterranean and West Africa and has two logistical bases - one in Angola and the other in Sicily - managed by Enimed, with a global operations team overseeing the robot’s routine activities. 

Context

Unmanned underwater vehicles are increasingly being used to perform the most complicated and dangerous tasks such as creating maps, monitoring the environment, collecting water samples, patrolling ports and detecting sea mines to make the sea a safer place. They can be operated remotely (ROVs) by a person in a control centre or they can be completely autonomous (AUVs), in the case of real underwater robots such as Clean Sea. Our vehicle can be operated using small support vessels, thus reducing logistics costs and offering a more cost-effective solution than current technologies. We use it in marine environments that require an accurate inspection and monitoring of water quality, although it can also be used in fields other than Upstream operations.

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Giuseppe Tannoia - Robotics for environmental purposes

Technological challenge

This technology is based on the use of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) similar to a drone, its primary characteristic being its ability to move independently in the sea without any physical connection to the surface, in silence and with limited logistical support. All of the information provided by the sensors and other devices installed on the robot is managed by a control system, without the need for a human operator. Like drones, AUVs also originated in the military field but their usage soon spread to other fields such as science and industry, for example. A system such as the Clean Sea can work in adverse weather conditions and even when there is ice on the surface of the water, in which cases the use of an ROV would be out of the question as it would be impossible to connect it to a support vessel on a stormy sea or above a layer of ice. Our robot is fitted with special rechargeable batteries, meaning that it can run continuously for several dozen hours.  

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Clean Sea - An underwater robot| Eni Video Channel

Industrial integration

Clean Sea was created in our laboratories as a tool for offshore use, its primary mission being to monitor underwater assets and to identify maintenance requirements in advance and give us the opportunity to quickly undertake any work that might be required. The wide range of sensors that can be fitted to the vehicle mean that it can also continuously monitor the condition of the water to identify any anomalies, allowing us to optimise the use of our offshore facilities, reduce operating costs and protect the marine environment in which they are located. The vehicle can also be integrated with our other plants in terms of its power supply, since Clean Sea can recharge its batteries by connecting to Power Buoy - another of the offshore technologies we have developed, consisting of a floating buoy that uses the movement of the waves to generate electricity. The underwater vehicle is able to locate the buoy in the middle of the sea and connect to it by automatically steering itself like a real robot. It can then recharge in preparation for its next dive using the buoy’s onboard wave-powered battery.

Environmental impact

As well as being of practical use on an industrial level, Clean Sea is a useful tool for protecting the marine environment since it is able to automatically gather large amounts of data at a low cost, as well as contributing to oceanographic research. The use of Clean Sea in the Mediterranean Basin is managed in Gela by Enimed, with two teams set up to deal with the vehicle’s maintenance and operation in 2016 and providing support for underwater services throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The operations it performs include routine coastal inspections and taking seabed and water samples for environmental monitoring purposes.