Safety – the driving factor

Today’s leading business issue in subsea industries like oil and gas, offshore wind farms and environmental monitoring is – safety. How do you assess the effects of corrosion on the health of your infrastructure, and evaluate their remaining asset life or get data from submerged sensors and data loggers without the prohibitive costs and potential dangers of sending out vessels and teams of divers? The past year has further complicated matters as global lockdowns and Covid infections have slowed business, snarled global supply chains, inhibited teams from traveling to sites and kept vessels in port. During these unprecedented and unforeseen times of disruption the promise of digital transformation and its ramifications for remote monitoring, real-time data, and the business insights they will enable are now beckoning to subsea industries, just as they have to land-based industries in years past.

Even before the pandemic, subsea industries have long been pummeled by disruption from natural and manmade disasters, such as hurricanes, the effects of climate change, rising sea levels as well as toxic spills, pollution in the water supply from agricultural runoff and over harvesting of the oceans marine life.

One of the largest industries to see the detrimental impact of high data latency was oil and gas.  Operators learned what subsea cable telecom operators had long known – there’s uncertainty in getting data reliably from point A to point B in adverse subsea conditions where cables are at risk and unknown conditions and stresses below the water are just as challenging as what everyone is experiencing above the water. In retrospect, operators would have been better prepared if they had had a wireless, low-latency real-time remote sensor monitoring and alarm systems with automatic shutoff, and relied less on cable and satellite signaling. It is no wonder that many companies in the subsea oil and gas and offshore wind farm sectors are urgently focused on digitally transforming and modernising their infrastructures and operations, with many setting goals to have 100% unmanned subsea inspections within 5 years and accessing 100% digitised data soon thereafter.

Digitisation: Beyond technology to business benefit

The promise of digitisation goes beyond updating the infrastructure to deliver data reliably in adverse sea conditions to providing new business benefits and revenue streams. Digital transformation revolutionises how companies deploy, protect, operate, update, integrate and manage remote communications systems for greater sustainability, increased performance and preparedness for unforeseen events.  The right technology and processes enable aquaculture, ocean observing, renewable energy and oil and gas to scale their data infrastructures to meet evolving needs and changing market demands. Digitisation will optimise operational and capital expenses as well as system and business efficiency and performance, improve safety, reduce maintenance cost, extend asset life, reduce a company’s carbon footprint and provide access to real-time data and analytic insights for better business decisions.

Digital transformation will be the rising tide that affords new opportunities for both established and regulated subsea industries as well as spur the growth of emerging sectors including ocean monitoring and aquaculture. Armed with automated and dynamic readings, companies will be able to make smart, data-driven decisions for any situation they may encounter and protect themselves from being caught flat-footed during uncertain times.

As CAPEX investments in digitising subsea infrastructures are beginning to hit budgets, advances in technology are finally at a place to help the transformation. Traditional technologies such as subsea cables – long the mainstay – often snag and fail due to repeated stresses from wave motion and ocean currents in deep-water or frequent disconnections from sensors in shallow water applications in coastal and offshore environments. Acoustic signals degrade in turbid or choppy water and it is difficult and expensive to move data through shallow water. Acoustic sound may also impact marine life – now a recognised issue. Optical solutions are subject to marine growth and also don’t work well in tidal seawater or water that is turbid or choppy, where light is ambient or where line of sight is limited or non-existent. To date, no wireless system has been able to transmit data signals reliably through the water-air boundary, water column, seabed and subsea structures.

CSignum: Leading the digital transformation for subsea industries

Until now. The former challenges of underwater radio data transmission have finally been overcome. A new RF wireless modem from CSignum will give companies the peace of mind that their information will get to the right place at the right time to process for their applications, whether that involves the structural integrity of a wind farm or oil and gas platform, preventing harmful algae blooms, improving ocean observing or optimising the health and sustainability of fish farming.

The physics of wirelessly digitising and transmitting signals reliably to a central collection point is now as easy to do underwater as it is on land. Whether the signal is moving from point A to point B underwater, across the water column, under the seabed, through the platform, or across the water-air boundary, our new radiEM technology is the catalysing force that will enable subsea industries to leapfrog into the future while they protect and optimise their current investments.

radiEM Modems use ultra-low wireless radio frequency and power consumption for subsea, water-to-air and air-to-water data transmission and connects to most subsea sensors using standard communication interfaces. The receiver can be easily mounted on underwater structures such as piles, buoys, nets, pontoons, etc. above, on or below the water or in the splash sone, making multiple deployment scenarios possible. The product enables transmission of data on fatigue, corrosion, strain, flow, motion, current, pressure, dissolved oxygen levels, temperature and pH, among other values. Unlike other traditional technologies, radiEM will work in turbid, choppy, low-light and biofouled waters, and uses ultra-low radio frequency and low amounts of power to provide better efficiency, lower costs and extended battery life.

radiEM has the ability to change the business equation. It can replace cable, acoustic and optical solutions, or, with minimum disruption, be deployed to work alongside them to provide reliable access to more and higher quality real-time data. Since it connects via standard interfaces to a sensor, it can easily be fitted to either brown, or green, field developments. With its superior battery technology and power consumption, the radiEM Modem reduces costly unplanned maintenance. Instead of having vessels and crews on standby or sending them out on regular campaigns, we anticipate maintenance can shift from calendar-based routines to risk-based schedules, reducing carbon emissions and significantly cutting service vessel costs for a greener, more sustainable solution. Instead of guessing how much time remains in asset life, sending engineers out to evaluate the extent of corrosion, or replacing structures unnecessarily, operators will now know exactly when infrastructure investments should be planned.

CSignum’s ambition is to be at every touchpoint in the subsea ecosystem to ensure every component, structure and system is seamlessly integrated and operating at optimal efficiency. As a result of the radiEM innovation, the challenges of underwater radio communication have been overcome, enabling “first mile” data connections for ocean industries to join the advances of last mile WiFi signals on land for an end-to-end digital infrastructure that is agile, enabling operators to digitise data and processes, easily add sensors and other components into the network and quickly respond to unforeseen economic and environmental global disruptions.

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