Fugro has been granted a patent for a subsea vertical drilling machine. The machine includes a drill assembly with a riser pipe and a drilling machine body, as well as a vertical feed system for advancing the drill assembly. The riser pipe is equipped with a rack, and the feed system includes a motor and pinion for advancing the drill assembly. The machine also features a spoil removal system with a conduit and exhaust. GlobalData’s report on Fugro gives a 360-degree view of the company including its patenting strategy. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s company profile on Fugro, Marine seismic data acquisition was a key innovation area identified from patents. Fugro's grant share as of September 2023 was 45%. Grant share is based on the ratio of number of grants to total number of patents.

Subsea vertical drilling machine with feed and spoil removal system

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Credit: Fugro NV

A recently granted patent (Publication Number: US11719049B2) describes a subsea drilling machine and a method for drilling holes in the seabed. The drilling machine includes a drill assembly with a riser pipe and a drilling machine body, which houses a drilling head. The drill assembly is advanced in a vertical direction using a feed system that includes a motor and a pinion engaged with a rack on the riser pipe.

The patent claims that the rack on the riser pipe can extend over the entire length of the pipe or be distributed along its circumference. In the latter case, multiple pinions or sets of pinions are used to cooperate with each rack. The feed system can also include multiple pinions for each rack.

The drilling machine is designed to remove spoil, or debris, from the drilling process. A spoil removal system includes a conduit that extends through the drilling head and the riser pipe, with a spoil exhaust provided at the second end of the riser pipe. A pump in the drilling machine body is used to pump the spoil from the drilling head to the exhaust.

The method for drilling a hole in the seabed involves assembling the drill assembly with the feed system to form the drilling machine. A template with drilling machine receiving sections is arranged on the seabed, and the drilling machine is placed in one of these sections. The feed system is fixated with respect to the template, and the drill assembly is advanced into the seabed by continuously moving the riser pipe while operating the drilling head. The spoil is removed through a spoil return pipe and discharged at the exhaust.

The method also includes the option of using a casing around the drilling machine body, which can be advanced into the seabed together with the drill assembly. The drilling head can protrude ahead of the casing or be arranged within it during the drilling process. After the casing reaches a certain depth, the drilling head can be further advanced into the ground.

Overall, this patent describes a subsea drilling machine and method that allow for efficient drilling in the seabed. The use of a rack and pinion system in the feed system, along with the spoil removal system, enhances the drilling process. The method also provides flexibility in terms of using a casing and adjusting the depth of the drilling head.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData Patent Analytics tracks bibliographic data, legal events data, point in time patent ownerships, and backward and forward citations from global patenting offices. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.