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Shell to try robotic seep hunting

Anglo-Dutch oil and energy company Shell has teamed up with Ocean Infinity, a marine robotics company, to deploy a fleet of robotics vessels for a seep hunting project.

Hydrocarbon seeps have long been used as indicators of hydrocarbon reserves, but locating them offshore is a challenging prospect unless they release enough oil to cause a visible slick. Locating and analysing them, however, can inform exploration decisions and lead to major cost savings.

Ocean Infinity Vice President Katya Krylova commented that the most productive collaborations tend to happen in times of difficulty and expressed the company’s delight at forming such a partnership with Shell. She said the new robotic fleet will represent a major shift in how the oil and gas industry operates, adding:

“Refining our ability to conduct tasks such as seep hunting using uncrewed technology opens up possibilities in so many other areas; the experience gained as a result of this collaboration could prove transferable to other offshore tasks such as carbon capture storage (CCS) monitoring.”

Shell, which also makes lubricant products for industrial settings, will combine its expertise in seep hunting with Ocean Infinity’s Armada fleet of unscrewed vessels. The fleet of 15 vessels will come into service next year and combine with the autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) that Ocean Infinity already operates.

Each robot surface vessel will be capable of acquiring data and making interventions at depths of up to 6,000 metres. It will also be capable of collecting further acoustic and visual data by deploying AUVs and remotely operated underwater vessels.

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