4 Ways Autonomous Offshore Power Systems Will Transform the Ocean Economy
In its most basic application, an AOPS is deployed primarily in support of an offshore asset, such as a subsea vehicle or a sensor package, or an activity, such as monitoring a decommissioned wellhead. The customer or end user of that hardware or service may have goals to reduce costs, improve safety, or deliver net zero operations. Almost everyone involved in the ocean economy is increasing—because they have to—their use of unmanned, connected technologies to collect information and perform activities remotely in pursuit of those goals. An AOPS is specifically intended to help achieve them.
Let’s look at the four primary applications, with the potential to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, lower costs, and increase safety and operational capabilities in the ocean economy.
- Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV): Supporting AUVs with local power, data and communications from an AOPS carries a strong value proposition for customers, as unmanned permanent and campaign-based monitoring, inspection and light interventional tasks offer substantial cost and carbon savings, while enabling new capabilities not possible today. Think about the ability to fly an underwater drone from half a world away, without the need for a topside vessel. This is a pretty common capability for aerial drones, but underwater is a different story. An AOPS like our SeaRAY is the missing piece of the puzzle for these highly sophisticated vehicles to fully deliver on their capabilities offshore, where they can be deployed for research and new scientific discoveries, inspecting subsea pipelines, or protecting harbors and ports.
- Sensors and Monitoring Equipment: What is the biggest market opportunity for AOPS deployment? It’s powering the vast and ever-growing array of sensors and monitoring equipment used in the ocean across all industries. To spotlight just one brand-new use case, storage of captured carbon deep below the seafloor will require both mobile and fixed monitoring equipment to ensure the integrity of the reservoir. Where will the power come from to keep these systems running in the middle of the ocean 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year? How will they transmit the collected data to the ocean surface and then to the cloud? That’s the job of an AOPS, regardless of whether the payload is monitoring the carbon reservoir, looking for gas leaks, or recording environmental conditions.
- Operating Equipment: Just as electrification is taking hold on land, it is also happening in the ocean. But as with the use cases above, where is the electric power going to come from? One of the benefits of going all-electric is the ability to provide real-time, condition-based monitoring and performance data. How will that data get back to the people who need it? It’s the perfect job for an AOPS, getting power in and data out for installations tens or hundreds of miles offshore.
- Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV): USVs and electric ships are coming to our oceans, just as electric vehicles have begun to proliferate on land. One obstacle is recharging. As it stands today, a USV will have to go to port to get recharged. Can you feel the range anxiety already? Just adding more batteries isn’t the answer. They’re too heavy and the extra weight and space needed can be counterproductive. An AOPS can act as an offshore recharging station, substantially improving the utilization and efficiency of the USV by avoiding unnecessary trips to port.
We’ve really just scratched the surface here, as many ocean industries do or will work across all four of those areas of application, often side by side. An AOPS has the flexibility to be configured and sized to support any combination of those applications, not to mention others that are ready to be deployed and some we can’t yet even imagine.