Diving into Safer WatersMon, 10/02/2017 - 13:00
The oil and gas industry involves high costs and high risks. Underwater inspection for offshore operations is a clear example. The divers who must check what is actually going on below the sea while dealing with high pressures, massive structures and even potentially dangerous animals.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) help companies avoid these risks. SOT Inc., a Mexican business that offers subsea general inspection services, sees an ocean of opportunity in ROVs, says Enrique Martínez, the company’s Director General. “Visual inspection is a broad service that ranges from detailing seabed conditions to the state of structures under the sea. To say that offering this service through ROVs is our added-value would be misleading,” he says. “Our ROVs are a substitute for divers, therefore providing a threefold added-value, which is minimizing security risks, reducing costs and shortening operation times. The minimization of operational security risks is straight-forward: we eliminate the need to put a diver’s life in danger. Using ROVs for visual inspections requires a much smaller boat and fewer operators, which produces lower costs. Finally, having a leaner organization and smaller equipment speeds up operations.” It is for reasons like these that MarketersMedia estimated that global total CAPEX investment in ROVs will hit US$5.15 billion in 2025.
Among the main challenges new technologies face is the aversion to change among some potential customers. “One of the main challenges we came up against when entering the market was convincing people that things could be done differently and that using ROVs would decrease time, costs and security risks.”
But as the oil and gas industry has turned toward innovation to ensure its activities are safe while remaining cost-efficient, the paradigm of using business-asusual solutions is starting to break. “Things are now much different, people are starting to be aware of the technology and even PEMEX is very interested in using our solutions,” Martínez says.
SOT Inc is working to further develop not only as a company, but also to help advance the Mexican industry and market. To this end, it is developing ROV modifications to broaden its range of services. “Our general inspection offering is from sea level to seabed at the moment, but we want to look below the seabed. The technology already exists but it must be adapted not only to Mexican economic and environmental conditions, but to specific client requirements. That is not an easy task but our workforce is comprised of Mexican engineers, mathematicians and physicists. They adapt the technology to client and environment requirements and then operate it, ensuring that our operations are performed at the highest quality possible.”
Developing and adapting new technology in-house is a key advantage for SOT Inc. For customers, when the operator is also the developer, cost advantages become obvious. “Having a Mexican workforce that actually developed the required adaptations ensures that, when problems arise, solutions are quickly found,” Martínez says. “There is no need to contact a manufacturer in the US or even in Europe to figure out what the problem is, which can delay operations for days or even weeks.
Martínez adds that if these kinds of solutions are taken into consideration when calculating final prices, SOT Inc is actually less expensive than other providers that simply operate ROVs without actually developing technologies around them.
Having a clear commitment to Mexico’s industry and market is a core value for the company, which has included the future of the country’s labor force in its longterm plans. “To further support the Mexican workforce, we are approaching some Mexican Universities to create internships so university students can come and learn with us, improve their skills and abilities, and then find a direct way into SOT Inc,” Martínez says. “We are committed to the development of the Mexican industry. Although 2016 and 2017 were difficult years, we are now looking at an uptake in operations. Things are improving.”