TWI to Develop Underwater Laser Cutting for Decommissioning

Research and technology organisation TWI has started a new project to reportedly advance the decommissioning of offshore structures.

Namely, TWI is developing decommissioning technology for use in deep and hazardous waters. This will consist of a laser cutting solution that can be deployed remotely to avoid the need for divers.

According to TWI, this technology should not only reduce the time taken to deploy when compared to competing methods, but also minimise the cost of subsea decommissioning.

The project will see the development of a prototype tooling system alongside UW laser cutting technology that will be effective for cutting 50mm thickness of mild steel at depths of up to 100 metres. When the technology and processes are in place, the SubSeaLase capabilities can be developed towards a post-project use.

“In order to maximise effectiveness, the system will need to be flexible enough to cut 50mm steel and 100mm concrete structures remotely without geometry limitations, while the use of a non-contact laser process will eliminate the risk of mechanical jamming, thereby minimising down-time. Not only will this new process be four times faster than existing underwater cutting technologies, but it will also reduce costs by lowering the days at sea required to complete a job,” TWI said.

SubSeaLase should also be safer than existing methods by removing the need for divers due to the deployment of the ROV mounted with an underwater cutting head and fibre-delivered laser source and gas compressor, which will remain topside.

The unmanned operation would not only be safer for workers but, because it doesn’t require the use of chemicals, flammables, or explosives there would be low secondary waste, which will mean a more environmentally-friendly solution.