By Amy Skalmusky, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Oceaneering makes its living operating in the most inhospitable places, like the vacuum of space and the bottom of the sea. As the worlds largest operator of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), underwater robots that can work at depths of up to 3,000 meters (aprox. 9,800 feet), it’s no surprise that the company is well positioned to take advantage of Brazil’s deepwater oil boom.
Founded in 1964, Houston-based Oceaneering has grown from an air and mixed gas diving business in the Gulf of Mexico to a diversified organization with 7,900 employees working out of 68 locations in 21 countries. They are traded on the NYSE and had an earned net income of almost US$190 million on revenues of nearly US$1.9 billion in 2009.
The company’s activities include ROVs, mobile offshore production systems, built-to-order specialty hardware, engineering and project management, subsea intervention and installation services, non-destructive testing and inspections, and manned diving. Its growth and broad area of expertise has been a result of internal research and development as well as strategic acquisitions.
Though the company’s revenues come mainly from the oil and gas industry, it also applies tools and techniques to non-oil related industries. They have been involved in many high-profile projects, including; recovery efforts for the space shuttle Challenger, assistance in the BP oil clean-up, design of the Constellation space suit for NASA and even underwater filming of the Titanic.
In Brazil for over ten years, Oceaneering’s predominant activities in country are ROV operations, headquartered in Macaé, and umbilical production at its facilities in Niterói. Recently, the company landed a large umbilical contract with Shell and the demand for ROVs continues to grow.
“We’ve had substantial growth over the past two years, and went from 12 to 35 ROVs. We’ve expanded our facilities and departments to offer them support,” said Gilmar Lopes, Operations Manager at Oceaneering in Macaé.
To keep up with the growing demand, Oceaneering recently invested in its state of the art training center in Macaé, which houses multimedia-equipped classrooms, electronics and hydraulics laboratories, and two ROV simulators, one of which includes a “cyberchair” that features controls and monitors located on the pilot seat, according to Lopes.
Operating an ROV is no easy task. Referred to as “flying”, operators command the vehicle from onshore via an umbilical cable. The operator can see the task site via underwater television cameras and other sensors on the ROV and manipulate the vehicle using sophisticated joysticks. To preform complex tasks like fixing or installing underwater equipment requires continuous training.
Oceaneering’s main client in Brazil is Petrobras, though the company continues to add new names to its portfolio like Devon, BP, Shell, Exxon, OGX and Repsol, among others. “The number of platforms is going to increase dramatically and we definitely want to be a part of it. We are ready to meet the new demands of our customers,” said Lopes.
With the new oil discoveries and Petrobras planned $174.4 billion investment over the next few years, mostly in developing the pre-salt layer where drilling will be done in over 2,000 meters (aprox. 6,500 feet) below sea level, the market for ROVs, and deep water equipment and services looks good in Brazil.