Sea robot promises to break new ground in long-distance well monitoring

The world’s first wave-powered, autonomous, data-gathering sea robot has received a $45-million cash boost to make itself useful for offshore well integrity monitoring.

Like a silent sea drone, this new invention uses wave energy to propel itself across the surface of the ocean, relentlessly gathering and transmitting data as it goes, in any conditions, for up to a year at a time.
Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas, a joint venture with oilfield technology firm Schlumberger, believes the Wave Glider will help in offshore well integrity by providing better unmanned data gathering for seep and loss detection, weather and oceanography monitoring, and subsea communications.

To prove its credentials, the Wave Glider set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle by making a 9,000-nautical-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean, landing in Australia in December.

“We are extremely excited about the new capabilities the unique Wave Glider platform will bring to offshore exploration and production,” said Ashok Belani, Schlumberger’s chief technology officer, at the product launch last June, “particularly in the areas of seismic, subsea and environmental monitoring.”

And last month Liquid Robotics closed a $45-million investment round led by Riverwood Capital, a technology private equity firm, with participation from existing investors including VantagePoint Capital Partners.

The company said it will use the money to expand its global sales, partner and services organisations and to fund new solutions for the oil and gas industry plus other target markets, defense and science and research.

Solar panels power the Wave Glider’s sensors, computers and communications equipment, but it gets around by wave power.

The rise and fall of even the smallest waves cause articulated wings on the glider’s sub-sea tethered hull to give it forward thrust.

Houston-based Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas believes the Wave Glider offers a cheaper alternative to traditional offshore data acquisition methods, including manned ships, satellites and ROVs.