Robot sweeps up on the sea floor

A robot developed by AEA Technology could help offshore companies tackle a pollution problem expected to cost around £50m per year by 2001.

An estimated 1.5m tonnes of contaminated drill cuttings – piles of mud and stone chippings produced when boring through subterranean rock for oil and gas – are estimated to be lying around North Sea oil platforms. Dispersal of the cuttings, which are typically contaminated with oil and heavy metals, could cause widespread pollution.

Which is where the Cuttings Recovery Vehicle (CRV), a robot capable of operating on the seabed, comes in. The robot, designed by AEATechnology, pumps drill cuttings back to the platform so that excess water can be removed and cleaned before being returned to the sea. The cuttings can then be converted to a slurry for re-injection into the strata.

The CRV is remotely controlled using a computer on the platform. It includes a telescopic boom that allows the robot to reach under the platform to pump out the drill cuttings while avoiding the risk of being trapped by any subsea structures.

AEA Technology is looking for a partner to help bring the system to the market.