Snake-Like Robot Designed for Underwater Pipelines


Developed by Norwegian technology company Eelume Subsea Intervention, a six-meter-long, snake-like robot is making its debut with intentions to serve the deep-sea oil and gas industry.

The autonomous disruptive technology, referred to at Eelume, is designed to perform maintenance, inspections and repair on underwater infrastructure to make work safer, cheaper and less polluting.

About Eelume

According to Eelume Subsea Intervention, Eelume was designed after a decade of research on snake robots in collaboration with independent research organization SINTEF. However, the technology originally established itself in 2015 as a spin-off from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The following year, Eelume Subsea Intervention formed a strategic partnership with Kongsberg Maritime and Statoil (LOOP product development program) to ensure the technology’s alignment with subsea experience and technology.

The Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway supported the development of the robotic technology.

The company reports that the underwater technology is basically a self-propelled robotic arm designed to live permanently under water, where they can be mobilized around the clock, regardless of ocean currents. Having constant access to continuous inspection, maintenance and repair capabilities near the subsea installations without the need for surface vessels means greener, safer and less costly subsea operations, ESI says.

Looking at more specific numbers, Eelume can be kept at docking stations up to 500 meters (547 yards) deep for up to six months without being brought back to the surface and can travel up to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) before needing to recharge.

In addition to performing maintenance on underwater infrastructure such as wells, pipelines and other equipment, Eelume can also swap out parts for different tasks, including tools to operate subsea valves, and cleaning brushes to remove marine growth and sediments. Thanks to its snake-like design, the underwater robot can work in confined spaces and wriggle its body to stay in place during unfavorable weather conditions.

During these tasks—which can be assigned from onshore— Eelume will also send back video and data.

Underwater Fix

While Eelume is not the only robot capable of completing underwater maintenance work, Pål Liljebäck, Chief Technology Officer with Eelume Subsea Intervention says that it is much cheaper. Currently, unmanned vehicles for this specific type of work can cost up to $100,000 per day as the technology typically needs to be transported to the offshore site on a fully crewed ship and remotely operated from onboard the surface vessel.

Liljebäck says that by "enabling the robot to become a subsea resident living in a docking station, it can be mobilized at any time to do inspections and intervention tasks, and thereby reducing the need for costly surface vessels."

Already, Eelume is reported to be invested in by Norwegian oil company Equinor. “It will reduce our costs by using a cheaper method to do maintenance and repair,” said Pål Atle Solheimsnes, lead engineer with Equinor. “Instead of our employees working in dangerous conditions offshore, we can put them in an onshore control room.”

Atle Solheimsnes also pointed to Eelume’s environmental benefits, "The diesel burning surface vessels emit a lot of CO2 but robots, like Eelume, emit almost nothing."

Eelume Subsea Intervention and Equinor will carry out final testing on the seabed later this year at the Åsgard oil and gas field. Eelume says it expects to deploy its first snake robots next year and hopes to have up to 50 in oceans around the world by 2027.

According to an analysis conducted by CNN, the global underwater robotics market is expected to be worth around $7 billion in 2025, inspiring other companies to develop similar technologies for commercialization as well.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Drones; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Equipment manufacturers; Inspection equipment; Latin America; North America; Robotics; Technology; Tools & Equipment; Z-Continents

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