Inside ABB’s Industrial INSUBSEA Automation Operations

March 02, 2020 by Jacob Ramirez

With offshore natural gas production increasing year-by-year, ABB is racing to revolutionize the automation behind subsea industrial systems.

ABB recently proved one of its latest subsea power system over a 3,000 hour test period.

This new development marks a significant advancement in offshore industrial solutions, as well as a large addition to ABB’s INSUBSEA systems, which provides underwater control solutions for offshore and submerged industrial systems, particularly in the natural gas and oil sector.


ABB’s INSUBSEA Program and Control Systems

Subsea automation is a complex field and requires specialized solutions that can be deployed entirely underwater, with minimal downtime. When dealing with these systems, many questions arise, such as maintenance procedures, water depth/pressure, and system longevity. 

ABB's answer to these concerns is its INSUBSEA program, which seeks to create reliable underwater (and topside) controls systems for offshore and underwater industrial systems. ABB's program also allows engineers to integrate many different products from different vendors into single, unitary systems that work in tandem with one another on the seabed.


INSUBSEA Automation and Control Systems

In order to meet the needs of the subsea operation, ABB is also advancing its controls systems. In previous years distributed and master control systems were often separated in underwater applications, however, subsea controls solutions have recently become more integrated, in favor of simplicity and efficiency as the technology advances.

ABB is hoping to match this trend of "interoperability" in IT and controls to further advance their controls systems for harsh, underwater industrial environments. The company hopes to see its first comprehensive solutions in this sector available in 2020.


ABB offshore subsea system

ABB offshore subsea automation system. Image used courtesy of ABB


Supplying power to offshore oil and gas rigs is often extremely difficult and inefficient, with diesel and natural gas-powered generators located on the rigs being a common solution in recent years. The only other viable alternative in recent years has been subsea cables that connect the rigs to external, onshore power systems.

As a result, a key component of ABB's INSUBSEA system is power generation and transmission, a system which they recently proved. As opposed to floating or topside power systems, ABB has developed true subsea step-out systems capable of providing power to industrial systems far out to sea or even full industrial systems operating on the seabed.


The New Proof of Power

ABB unveiled one of its latest subsea industrial power systems in Vaasa, Finland. This new method of underwater power transmission is capable of reliably supplying up to 100 MW over a maximum distance of 600 KM out at sea, and was proven over a 3,000 hour test period in Finland.

Furthermore, the system is reliable at depths up to 3,000 meters, at pressures capable of shattering a brick.

The company also stated that once deployed, the system will require "little to no maintenance for up to 30 years," remedying one of the largest logistical issues behind deep sea industrial systems.

Since the system remains reliable at such incredible depths without requiring maintenance, it will also conserve energy and reduce a rig's carbon footprint over traditional transmission cable and step-down systems.



What does the future of subsea automation look like to you?