Safety Watch: Seabed Rig, Energrid Tech work to develop a subsea, fully automated drilling rig

Source: Seabed Rig AS

In the wake of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, many are questioning the safety of offshore drilling. One company is working hard on new technologies for a cleaner, safer, more effective way to drill. 

With an estimated 5,000 barrels a day being released into the ocean, the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill could rival that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The explosion took the lives of 11 people and will leave economic and environmental devastation (estimated to be upwards of $7 Billion USD). 

The investigation is still underway to determine the cause of the explosion, but clearly, safeguards need to be in place to ensure such a disaster cannot occur again if offshore drilling is to have a prominent place in US energy policy. 

The rig that exploded was being used not for production, but for exploration -- seeking viable drilling areas for production. 

Subsea Drilling Rig

A new, safer exploration rig is being developed by the Norwegian company Seabed Rig AS. This new exploration rig is unlike any other. It is designed to operate uninhabited on the ocean floor, enabling safe exploration of ultra-deep water and arctic regions that are difficult (or impossible) to access with traditional rigs.
The rig is operated by sophisticated, intelligent robots that are controlled using software provided by Cambridge, Massachusetts firm Energid Technologies Corporation. 

"The software was originally developed for NASA and the National Science Foundation for controlling complex robotic systems," says Neil Tardella, COO of Energid. "We are leveraging this software to build the most intelligent rig of its kind." 

By automating the rig, workers are kept far away from danger. Moreover, an automated rig is less susceptible to human errors -- the source of several major incidents in the past. 

"Robots do not get tired and make mistakes," says Roald Valen, Robotics and Control System Manager at Seabed Rig. "They do not get hurt." 

For safety, the seabed rig employs a patented encapsulated and pressure compensated design, giving an environmentally friendly solution with zero discharge to the sea.

"Our aim is to make the rig both safer and more effective than any exploration rig currently in use," says Kenneth Mikalsen, CTO of Seabed Rig. 

The prototype seabed rig will be demonstrated at ONS 2010 in Stavanger, Norway on August 24-27, 2010. 

About Energid Technologies 

Energid Technologies develops tools for robotic applications in the aerospace, agriculture, transportation, defense, and medical industries. Energid's Actin™ and Selectin™ products provide advanced robotics technology in the form of extensible software toolkits. Energid specializes in the sensing, control, and simulation of complex systems. 

About Seabed Rig 

Seabed Rig AS is developing an innovative seabed drilling rig to carry out cost-effective drilling from a location at the seabed, at deep waters and in arctic areas. The Seabed Rig is unmanned with automated and robotized working operations that are remotely controlled from an interactive 3D interface.

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