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A modular, 'snake like' vehicle could transform subsea inspections

In Norway, one company is looking to transform the way subsea inspection, maintenance and repair – a crucial part of the oil industry – is carried out.

Set up in 2015, Eelume was spun out from research carried out at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, or NTNU. Their vehicles have been designed and engineered to 'live' permanently underwater, allowing them to be used whenever they are needed.

Arne Kjorsvik, CEO of the company, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy that remotely operated vehicles, controlled from a surface vessel, were a "very costly matter, because the surface vessel costs a lot of money, and you have a lot of people on board."

"Our vehicle is permanently installed on the sea floor, so we don't need to engage the surface vessel to do inspections and... maintenance work," Kjorsvik added. "That reduces the CO2 emissions," he added.

The vehicles are modular and have a 'snake like' appearance. The company says their slim body enables precision hovering and maneuvering "even in strong ocean currents."

Pal Liljeback is the chief technology officer and co-founder of Eelume. He told Sustainable Energy that the vehicles were "ideal for carrying out inspection and maintenance operations in tight spaces not accessible by larger, more conventional underwater vehicles."

The vehicles were also able to carry out more typical intervention tasks such as removing marine growth, he said.

Looking to the future, Liljeback said that the team was designing a new prototype which would be able to carry different types of tools and undertake different types of intervention.

"The vehicle will actually have tooling in each end, so it will actually be able to grab hold of something with one hand and carry out the tool operation with another hand," he explained.