A Safer, Cheaper, Greener Way to Drill for Oil and Gas


Seeking to improve the cost, efficiency, and safety of deep-sea oil drilling, Norway-based Seabed Rig has developed a new deep-sea drilling system that operates on the ocean floor.

The breakthrough design, realized with SolidWorks® software, eliminates miles of rigid oil-carrying pipes and the towering superstructure that blights scenic coastlines. It replaces that costly superstructure with a complete, fully automated drilling rig that is a fraction of the size of the traditional platform. Rather than being erected over many months by round-the-clock construction crews, it can be lowered to the ocean floor from a surface ship in a day.

Remotely controlled from the surface vessel, the rig is filled with water, pressure-compensated, and encapsulated in order to avoid contamination of the surrounding environment. By requiring less machinery, construction, set-up, staffing, clean-up and tear-down, Seabed Rig will dramatically reduce the costs of oil and gas exploration in the deep seas and difficult Arctic regions.

“Safety and cost are two main concerns around the extraction and use of fossil fuel, and correctly so,” said Kenneth Mikalsen CTO at Seabed Rig. “These are exactly the problems our new design addresses. We have come a long way since our founding, and SolidWorks design software has been an important tool for helping us to get here. We will continue to use SolidWorks as we work to change the way deepwater oil and gas drilling is done.”

Seabed Rig’s specialized robots, drilling equipment, and large assemblies demand intuitive, powerful software. “The engineers that were involved in the start-up phase were all experienced SolidWorks users,” Mikalsen said. “As such, they knew SolidWorks could effectively master the design challenges we were facing.”

Using SolidWorks helps the company meet its time and quality goals, working faster than 2D CAD software would have allowed. Collaboration with business partners and subcontractors is seamless, since these third parties are part of the million-strong SolidWorks community, too.

Recently nominated for the Norwegian Research Council’s R&D prize, Seabed Rig has recently introduced a full demonstration version of the automatic drilling-system at the Forus Teknolgipark.

“The world needs new thinking to protect people and the environment,” said David Falkingham, country manager for Northern Europe at DS SolidWorks Corp. “Seabed Rig exemplifies this thinking with a technical solution that makes one of our most dangerous and complex activities more economical, efficient, and safe.”