Thales to Launch Deepwater Geotechnical Drilling System

The forthcoming introduction of Thales GeoSolutions' state-of-the-art deepwater drilling system, DeepDrill, is set to establish new standards for geotechnical site investigations in deepwater. Considerable research and development effort has lead to significant improvements in operational efficiency and safety over existing deepwater geotechnical survey spreads that will make DeepDrill the new market leader for in situ testing and high quality soil sampling at water depths of up to 2500 meters.

In addition, the vessel will be able to offer in situ testing capabilities in depths of up to 4,000 meters using mini-cone penetrometer testing (MCPT) systems mounted on permanently mobilized Thales G3 remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

DeepDrill will be permanently mobilised on board the MV Northern River, a DPII dynamically positioned vessel, already under charter, and forming part of Thales GeoSolutions' fleet of over 20 survey and offshore support vessels. Norwegian flagged and classed with DNV (Det Norske Veritas), the Northern River is a large stable, high-specification vessel over 90meters long, UT745 designed and built in Norway in 1998.

From the outset, the DeepDrill system has been designed with a focus on HSE, drawing much of its technology from the current state-of-the-art in the exploration drilling industry. Drilling system designed, built and installed to achieve compliance with DNV and the regulations of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the safety features of DeepDrill include an 'iron-roughneck', automatic pipe and tool handling systems, all designed to remove the requirement for manual intervention during normal operations.

DeepDrill will be capable of rotary drilling, sampling and in situ testing at water depths of up to 2000m using steel API 5 ½ -inch pipe with the option to extend this capacity using aluminum pipe if required. The active – passive heave compensation system has been designed to minimize sample disturbance, even in adverse weather conditions.

Providing up to 20 tons of thrust for drilling and sampling operations, the drilling system's unique intelligent seabed frame design incorporates subsea HPU, telemetry, thrusters, cameras and additional capacity for other specialist sensors as required. The seabed frame operations mode, in up to 2,500m of water, is based on a pushed piston sampler and piezo cone penetrometer testing (PCPT) system reaching to a depth of 40m below the mudline.

At the heart of the DeepDrill concept is Thales GeoSolutions' commitment to providing its customers with the most cost effective and efficient service. The combination of DeepDrill and the MV Northern River with its high-specification on board soils laboratory and fully networked office facilities will allow the rapid turnaround of high quality soils engineering data, reporting and subsequent engineering analyses.