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Case study

Remote Advances; Operational Advantages

Client: Subsea 7

December 23, 2021

A joint operation between Sonardyne and Subsea 7 has helped to de-risk technology adoption on BP’s Mad Dog Phase 2 development by allowing 24-hour remote access to offshore survey systems for onshore staff, de-risking the use of new technology, reducing project overheads, and paving the way for new ways of working in the future.

The challenge

There’s more desire than ever to be smarter and more efficient, to reduce vessel days, improve safety performance and lessen environmental footprints – all without losing performance, accuracy, reliability or downtime. Sonardyne has been working with Subsea 7 on reducing hardware requirements and vessel time in survey operations, including through the adoption of sparse Long BaseLine (LBL) navigation.

The latest step-change has been through the roll-out of Sonardyne’s Fusion 2 software, alongside the adaptation of new embedded calibration routines. By combining inertial navigation (INS) and LBL into a single system, Fusion 2 took away much of the interface complexity that had been involved in sparse LBL operations (using separate INS and LBL systems), reduced hardware overheads, and enabled whole work flows to be removed, through the ability to perform real-time simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) calibration of sparse arrays without any need for post-processing.


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The solution

During construction operations, at BP’s Mad Dog Phase 2 development in the deep water Gulf of Mexico, mobilising Fusion 2 trained surveyors to the right place at the right time had posed a challenge, due to global travel and working restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure continuity of operations across multiple vessels and offshore campaigns, Sonardyne’s Zoom and Microsoft Teams-based remote training was utilised to convert Fusion 1 trained surveyors to Fusion 2, which can be done in just one day or tailored to requirements.

In a first for both companies, Sonardyne then supplied its new Remote Operations Access Module (ROAM) giving its survey experts 24-hour remote access to Subsea 7’s onboard Sonardyne systems. ROAM provides an interface between the vessel’s Fusion 2 systems and communications systems (i.e. satellite or 4G) so that a Sonardyne surveyor can securely dial in, using a secure Portal and Virtual Network Computing (VNC) connection to support operations as if he or she were on board.

In this first project using ROAM, Sonardyne Surveyors in the UK were able to update firmware and software and provide a planned 24/7 operational service during SLAM calibration operations.

The combination of remote training and virtual support de-risked the continued adoption of Fusion 2, and Sonardyne’s remote service provided the assurance to continue with Fusion 2 and sparse LBL operations, avoiding the need to revert to full LBL and the extra equipment and inefficiencies that would bring. The ROAM system was supported by Subsea 7 survey personnel based in Aberdeen and Houston who worked to ensure efficient onboard integration.

The operation involved piles being accurately positioned at four sites in up to 2,133 m water depth by the Island Venture offshore construction vessel. Traditional LBL would have required four or five Compatts at each site, with multiple box-ins. By using Fusion 2, just two Compatt 6+s were needed at each site and only two box-ins in total, hugely reducing Subsea 7’s operational overheads – both in terms of hardware and time-ontask. Further projects have since been run onboard another Subsea 7 vessel, Harvey Intervention.

Simon Waterfield, Survey Group Manager, Sonardyne

Edward Moller, Head of Market for Energy at Sonardyne, says remote operations support like this is an inevitable transition; it’s just that Coronavirus has accelerated its adoption. “Remote operations capability has always been part of the Fusion 2 roadmap, driven by our customers looking for ways they can be more efficient, reduce costs and, occasionally, even to mitigate skills shortages,” he says. “In fact, we had demonstrated this capability during our Fusion 2 Road Show in 2018, at Lake Conroe in Texas. But, given the environment we found ourselves in this year, it’s now become a real enabler.”

Of course, it’s a learning process, part of which is being able to replicate the experience of being on board – where it’s easier for an experienced surveyor to see immediately what equipment there is and how it can be best deployed. This brings challenges – such as bringing on new surveyors and making sure they get the experience they need. “These are challenges that need to be and will be addressed as we move to a more digitally enabled future where remote operation become more the norm,” says Moller, “or even where operations are conducted using unmanned surface vessels.

Fusion 2 is a step towards this and there are more ways that, through ROAM, Sonardyne can help offshore clients directly – remotely – on planned operations. For example, rather than having a VNC connection, lower bandwidth connections could be used via the ROAM interface to a slave system onshore and having a digital twin running onshore where you can change settings, send these configurations offshore and then monitor operations; this is all on the Fusion 2 development roadmap.”

The results

Philip Banks, Survey Operations Manager for Global Projects at Subsea 7 added, “The mitigation of the risks for new technologies is a key gate to pass through. This allowed us to develop a roadmap to demonstrate the level of development or support required for its use, including management of any change.

“Mad Dog 2 installation activities will span three years with managing changes in vessels and operational plans. The adaptation and evolution of Fusion 2 into both a cost saving and now remote support and operations platform has been a key driver in classifying it as a field-proven system for the wider business.”


Key Stats


Sonardyne Surveyors in the UK were able to provide 24/7 operational support during operations


Simultaneous location and mapping

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