In early 2022, Equinor required subsea pipeline isolation at one of its offshore production facilities planned for decommissioning.

Typically, subsea pipeline isolation operations are supported by an ROV or diving vessel and use a device placed on the outside of the pipeline, interfaced with ROV telemetry for control and monitoring.

Equinor engaged with Oceaneering to provide an alternative solution that reduced cost, HSE risk, and the operation’s carbon footprint. Oceaneering leveraged its resident, battery-powered work-class ROV and shore-based personnel to complete the isolation operations.

Collaboration Was Key

Available and robust LTE and VSAT connectivity across the North Sea support remote operations and, for this project, enabled the pipeline isolation to be performed remotely from globally located Onshore Remote Operations Centers.

Equinor, Oceaneering, and T.D. Williamson (TDW), a leading provider of advanced pipeline technologies, collaborated to complete this industry-first isolation project. By combining TDW’s advanced SmartPlug® pipeline isolation technologies and expertise with the capabilities of the Liberty system, Equinor was able to eliminate the need for costly vessel support and mobilizations of key personnel offshore.

An Industry First

This was the first time a resident, battery-powered, work-class ROV system was used to complete isolation activities through remote operations from shore.

The project was completed successfully, without incident, and demonstrates the repeatability of the approach. Globally based teams were able to conduct operations from virtual control rooms, increasing the subject matter expertise available and providing optimized oversight for all project stakeholders. The remote nature of the project meant that operations could be completed around the clock, supported by teams in Australia, Norway, and Houston.

Delivering Results

This approach delivered numerous advantages.

Key personnel worked from an onshore base rather than mobilizing offshore, enabling cost savings, reducing HSE risk, and increasing collaboration. The most significant contribution to cost savings was realized by removing the vessel requirement. Not only was there a quantifiable value, but the CO2 and environmental footprint of the operations were also drastically reduced.

The Future is Remote

Low-latency, high-bandwidth LTE and VSAT communications are becoming prevalent across the world.

Demonstrating the applicability of remote operations in this instance challenges conventional methods of work and further opens the field to additional remotely executed operations. Combining this connectivity with advanced technologies and with the willingness to adapt change in the way of working, remote operations are becoming the new standard.

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