-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE --
Since entering the industry over 25 years ago, Bill Bridges, the manager of AUV
operations at geophysical services pioneer Fugro GeoServices, has seen the definition
of deepwater change dramatically from 1000 feet then to up to 5000 feet and beyond
now. The tools in the company's arsenal have increased as well, but the name behind
many of them – including the HUGIN 3000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) – remains
the same: KONGSBERG.
Fugro GeoService AUV Operations Manager Bill Bridges and Brett White of Kongsberg Maritime flanking a model of the HUGIN 3000..
Fugro GeoServices specialises in marine geohazards data acquisition, pipeline
route surveys, archaeological surveys and related geohazard consulting and permitting
services, primarily for the oil and gas industry. While the 140-person company is
headquartered in Houston, the geophysical surveying is mostly run out of the Lafayette,
Louisiana office, where Bridges is based.
Bridges joined John E. Chance and Associates in 1981, and this company was part
of the 1991 merger with Holland-based Fugro, that subsequently created Fugro GeoServices
and Fugro-Chance (the positioning group). He's held the roles of Geophysical Shop
Supervisor and Geophysical Technical Coordinator before taking his current position.
Bridges' working relationship with Kongsberg/Simrad equipment began during the
early days at John E. Chance. In the early 1980s, they became one of the first companies
to acquire Simrad's 209 and 309 HPR (Hydroacoustic Position Reference) equipment.
Additional Kongsberg Maritime purchases such as EA 500 fathometers, scanning sonars,
the SM 2000 and EM 2000 multibeam sonars, and HiPAP 350 and 500 acoustic positioning
systems, along with other improved surveying tools, have helped make it possible
for the company to greatly reduce its fleet size – from owning 15 vessels and leasing
another 10–15 to the four survey vessels Fugro GeoServices owns today.
While Chance had built up quite a reputation in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) area
for its surveying work for major oil companies, Fugro was more of an unknown commodity
in the region at that time. Not anymore.
"Now Fugro is a brand name that means a lot to people," says Bridges. "When Fugro
acquired John E. Chance, it was possible to buy sonars and other surveying and seismic
equipment. The real asset was to get such a large number of talented people together
across the globe." Today the publicly held Fugro Group of companies consists of
over 12,000 employees in over 50 countries, making it much larger than many of its
competitors, the majority of which are privately owned.
Such an international presence allows Fugro GeoServices to mobilise very quickly,
and share resources, software developments and people across the Fugro company line.
While Fugro GeoServices has the Gulf of Mexico as its primary geographic area of
responsibility, they still have the ability to travel almost anywhere. Recent projects
in which GeoServices has assisted the Fugro Group internationally include a cooperation
in Australia with Fugro Perth, and another survey in West Africa with Fugro Surveys
Ltd - Aberdeen.
Unparalleled knowledge of the GoM
To give an idea of the scope and scale of Fugro's success in the region, one
need only mention the Gulf of Mexico database. Over a 50-year period, and in cooperation
with oil and gas operators in the region and the Federal Mineral Management Service,
Fugro has complied what is viewed as the most comprehensive private database of
wells, pipelines and hazards in the GoM. And Fugro itself has actually carried out
the as-built surveys on over 50% of the pipelines contained here.
Fugro GeoServices' work for very large oil and gas companies tends to fall under
the "front-end" banner, meaning hazard and archaeological surveys before any deepwater
drilling and development activity takes place, along with pipeline survey work.
The company has carried out such surveys with water depths from 10 feet to over
7,000 feet. The deeper the water, the more sophisticated the tools are, with HUGIN
AUV involvement usually from around the 2,000-foot depth and beyond.
With over 200 different oil and gas companies based in the GoM, extremely high
oil and gas prices, and large deepwater lease sales of late in the Central Gulf,
it doesn't appear as if the work will be drying up anytime soon. One of Fugro GeoService's
four survey vessels recently completed a 45-day AUV survey – one of the largest to date.
Fugro Enterprise and the HUGIN 3000: A perfect fit
Fugro Survey Ltd. in Aberdeen had already purchased and deployed a HUGIN 3000
AUV with great success in 2005, and with the goal of upgrading their vessels and
the sharing of best practices amongst Fugro's survey companies, a corporate decision
was made to purchase another HUGIN 3000 for Fugro GeoServices in 2006.
Bridges and three other members of GeoServices' AUV team travelled to Horten,
Norway, in autumn 2006 to observe the project start-up and receive extensive product
training. The team worked closely with Fugro Survey Ltd. and Kongsberg Maritime
personnel for up to 9 weeks during this period. Afterwards, Fugro's Highland Eagle
vessel was used to carry out installation and acceptance testing in the Oslo Fjord;
successful deepwater testing took place onboard a Fugro GeoServices vessel in the
GoM along with Fugro Survey Ltd. and Kongsberg Maritime staff.
Kongsberg provides 24/7 AUV assistance to the field crews if needed, and Bridges
is quick to point out that Fugro GeoServices communicates with the Kongsberg AUV
group often and appreciates the service provided. Luckily, however, any problems
have been minimal.
"The HUGIN has the best dive duration on the market, and it pretty much worked
right out of the box. We bought this one ‘ready to go'," says Bridges, who summed
up the final steps of the transaction involving the technically superior vehicle
in the most uncomplicated of ways: "We stayed there, packed it up, put it on a ship, and went home."
Now in place on the Fugro Enterprise, the HUGIN AUV is equipped with a multibeam
echosounder, side scan sonar and sub-bottom sensors capable of working for up to
60 hours continuously in water depths of up to 10,000 feet. Near real-time survey
data available onboard, combined with the newbuild's HSE systems, workspace and
accommodations, allows Fugro GeoServices to provide the most efficient and cost-effective AUV survey work available.
- The HUGIN Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUVs) can locate small objects underwater where other technologies do not stand a chance
- The industry standard for AUV-based offshore oil and gas surveying, HUGIN AUVs have covered a collective distance of more than 120,000 kilometres on the seabed for offshore survey companies in the run-up to development of a majority of the world's deepwater oil fields
- HUGIN AUVs have also been greatly utilised by the Norwegian and Finnish Navies for assisting in mine-hunting operations