Fugro has used their first operational Blue Essence uncrewed surface vehicle (USV), the 12 m Fugro Maali, to complete an entirely remote nearshore inspection of three gas trunklines in the North West of Australia for the Woodside operated North West Shelf Project.
Fugro’s Blue Essence next-generation USVs are operated remotely from onshore remote operations centres (ROCs) and the Fugro Maali is the first Blue Essence in service anywhere in the world. The name Maali is a Noongar term for “black swan”, which is both the state bird and emblem of Western Australia, where the USV is based.
The USV remote inspection, the first to be completed by the new USV, comprised a multibeam survey, visual inspection and cathodic protection assessment of the gas trucklines to comply with Woodside and regulatory requirements. Fitted with an electric remotely operated vehicle (eROV), the USV mobilised at the end of April and was controlled from the Woodside-operated King Bay Supply Facility and Fugro’s ROC in Perth, approximately 1500 km south of the Woodside trunklines. During the one-month project, Fugro’s remote operations team navigated approximately 1300 nautical miles in the surrounds of Dampier Port, one of the busiest resource ports in Australia, without incident and consuming a total of only 3300 litres of diesel, reducing CO2 emissions by 97% compared to a traditional vessel. Fugro’s bespoke remote operations and robotic control architecture allowed the USV and eROV to be operated over large distances with minimal latency and high reliability, ensuring the USV operators maintained control of the vehicles in real time, just as if they were controlling them from a conventional vessel bridge.
The safe and successful completion of the first ever remotely operated Fugro USV with eROV for pipeline inspection was the culmination of many years of work between the Fugro and Woodside teams. The key to success has been the long-term relationship and collaboration with a continuous improvement mindset. Fugro are only scratching the surface of a remote operations journey and over the following months will be pushing the boundaries on additional USV capabilities.