In 2018, Ashtead Technology acquired Welaptega, a market leader in mooring system inspection and integrity engineering.

Almost three years on, Tyler de Gier, General Manager, shares his thoughts on the journey so far and how being part of Ashtead Technology has helped the business cement its leading position in the underwater inspection services market. Furthermore, as the demand for remote operations increases, Tyler discusses how Ashtead is playing its part to ensure safer, faster, and more sustainable project delivery.

Why was Welaptega such a good strategic fit for Ashtead Technology?

For over three decades Welaptega has performed inspection and dimensional analysis of mooring and production systems for oil and gas installations worldwide. Our technologies and expertise allow operators to manage the integrity of safety-critical assets without compromising production activities.

By bringing together two world-class portfolios, the deal significantly strengthened the group’s subsea inspection capabilities, creating a wider, more competitive offering, whilst reinforcing Ashtead Technology’s position as a leader in the provision of advanced offshore equipment solutions.

Talk about some of the recent project successes since becoming part of the Ashtead Technology team

R&D has always been integral to our success. Now part of Ashtead Technology, we have been able to continue investing in new innovations to further develop our service offering and keep us at the forefront of underwater inspection applications.

Recent innovations include continued improvement of our optical Chain Measurement System (CMS), complete with new automated edge tracking software to improve operational efficiency in high-motion environments, such as in Angola. Further CMS development is underway to reduce chain measurement time by 50% and allow the system to be deployed by Observation Class ROVs.

We have also redeveloped our existing wire mooring rope cleaning and inspection tool for use on a wider range of flexibles, including risers, umbilicals, marine power cables, and TLP tendons, to allow inspection and manage fatigue by reducing weight and drag from excessive marine growth. The Riser/Rope Cleaning and Inspection System (RCIS) has a track record in excess of 10 years as the safest and most efficient method of cleaning subsea flexibles, and now requires no specialist offshore technicians to operate it, thereby helping to keep operational costs low and reducing POB.

How is the company playing its part in support of the energy transition?

A growing number of offshore operators are turning to remote operations solutions to not only reduce offshore POB and resulting risk exposure, but also to help minimise spending, increase efficiencies and reduce carbon footprint.

So far this year, our Asset Integrity team has carried out five remote underwater inspection projects from our remote operations centres in Aberdeenshire, UK, and Canada. We’ve successfully delivered projects in Angola, Australia, and the UK for the likes of Shell, BP, and Woodside, and we have upcoming projects in Malaysia, Canada, and the USA.

Some of these projects have required remote operations due to travel restrictions, while others have opted for remote operations instead of conventional manning.

Remote operations will allow us to continue to bring specialised digital technologies to our global customer base without the cost and difficulties of mobilising personnel to remote locations, ultimately improving the integrity management of safety-critical assets.

What’s next for Ashtead Technology’s Asset Integrity team?

We are internationally recognised for our best-in-class inspection technology and service capability and through our global network of agents, we can bring our offerings to a broader customer base whilst providing a local service delivery.

Innovation will remain integral to our growth strategy as it keeps us at the forefront of what we do. In collaboration with Whitecap Scientific, SubC Imaging, and Nova Scotia Community College SEATAC division, we are also pioneering new digital twinning technology for use by conventional ROV and vessel crew rather than specialists. Guided by real-time 3D reconstruction to give feedback on image quality and coverage, minimally-trained persons will be able to confidently collect high quality image data for post-processed digital twins.

This new solution will allow our customers to cost-effectively digitise their high value, safety critical assets without the need for offshore photogrammetry specialists, facilitating a transition to unmanned operations without jeopardising service quality.

The number of offshore assets reaching their end of life, globally, is rising, meaning decommissioning projects are a real eventuality for many operators.

Decommissioning is an inherently hazardous exercise, one that requires meticulous planning, experienced people and an extremely defined skill-set, if it is to be executed safely.

In the North Sea, one of the world’s most mature offshore production basins, decommissioning will be a major industrial challenge. There are hundreds of platforms, millions of tonnes of infrastructure, and thousands of wells and structures that will need removed and recycled in the coming years.

Decommissioning is an expensive business but costs have been declining in recent years due to increased innovation, better cooperation throughout the supply chain and the development of first-class skills and capabilities.

In this blog, Stephen Booth, Ashtead Technology’s Business Development Manager, discusses the many challenges facing the sector and how Ashtead Technology can help Operators make decommissioning safer and more cost effective, whist reducing environmental impact.

Best-in-class services

“With a 20 year track record, Ashtead Technology are international experts in the provision of offshore decommissioning services for the energy sector. With one of the largest fleets of decommissioning tools and systems in the market, we specialise in ROV tooling, control and monitoring solutions, structure monitoring services, cutting systems and seabed dredging solutions.

“We offer a complete service capability for the cutting and removal of oil & gas and renewable energy infrastructure, with a proven track record in field clearance and structure & pipeline cutting and recovery. Specifically for the renewables market, we provide a suite of services for the decommissioning of met masts, monopiles, tri-pile foundation structures and export cables.

“The continued ambition to reduce decommissioning expenditure is a challenge for the whole supply chain and our aim is to provide customers with the most reliable, efficient and predictable end of life solution, delivered at the lowest cost with no compromise on best-in-class HSE performance.

Enabling technology innovation

“Innovation in decommissioning through continued investment in research, development and deployment of technology will maintain and enhance supply chain capability.

“In order to expand our market-leading offering and deliver greater value for our customers’, Ashtead Technology continues to pioneer the development of new technologies and methodologies.

“The SubseaLASE is an advanced method of laser cutting that has significant advantages over standard mechanical or water-abrasive cutting methods. An extremely versatile tool, the SubseaLASE can perform a swift remote cut regardless of orientation or geometry.​ Not only is cutting time significantly reduced by approximately 80%, the set up and post-cutting stages of operation are greatly simplified, with minimal human intervention required.

“SubseaLASE has the potential to revolutionise pipeline cutting operations providing a safer, low-cost and low-risk cutting solution to fast-track the decommissioning process. Furthermore, it provides Operators with a more sustainable alternative to traditional decommissioning methodologies as the process requires less human intervention and vessel time therefore reducing the emissions associated with decommissioning.

“As we approach the final development stages with this product, we have started the journey of engaging with potential sponsors to help complete the R&D process and facilitate with the commercialisation of this game-changing technology.

Centre of excellence capability deployed internationally

“Since our acquisition of UCS in 2019, Ashtead Technology’s ability to bring a decommissioning capability to international customers has significantly increased.

“Drawing on a tried and tested project management model which combines our centre of excellence expertise (delivered from our Mechanical Solutions Technology Hub in Thainstone, Aberdeenshire) with a bolstered local and international operational capability, we have recently executed multiple successful projects in the Middle East, Asia and West Africa. Furthermore, we have laid the foundations for delivering further complex, multi-service decommissioning projects across these regions, as demand requires.

Sustainable decommissioning

“Decommissioning is an inherent part of the energy transition agenda with new ways of repurposing and reusing infrastructure being explored to minimise gas emissions. As a proactive participant in the energy transition, Ashtead Technology will continue to work with industry partners and the supply chain to support the development of new technology and methodologies to improve efficiency and reduce cost and safety risk in an environmentally responsible manner.”