June 9, 2012
By Alison Lawlor
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is just one example of how Welaptega Marine is making the oil and gas sector safer and more efficient.
In the weeks following the April 20, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, a Halifax-based high-tech company worked tirelessly to help contain what has become the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
As 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked from the damaged BP Macondo well into the Gulf, Welaptega Marine lent its expertise by building a high-resolution 3-D model to confirm the dimensions of the wellhead, leading to a cap being successfully installed on the wellhead almost two months post-explosion.
With cameras attached to a remote submarine, Welaptega created a 3-D video, similar to an IMAX movie, plus 5,000 photos of the damaged infrastructure to develop a model that engineers then used to build a new cap.
“We knew we had technology that would help them,” says Tony Hall, Welaptega Marine’s founder and CEO. “It felt good to be contributing to the solution in such a positive way.”
Over the past 20 years, the Nova Scotia company has developed technologies to make oil and gas exploration and production not only safer but also more efficient.
Through its underwater technologies, it provides clients with measurements of unprecedented accuracy on underwater rig components, such as mooring lines.
An industry leader in mooring inspection, Welaptega is the only company in the world certified to do mooring inspections by the international third-party certification agencies Lloyd’s Register Group and Det Norske Veritas.
Its mooring and post-incident inspection technologies assess the condition of mooring lines and other subsea equipment, identifying potential damage without having to remove them from the water. Now a core part of its business, these systems not only enhance client safety but also increase efficiency and reduce downtime.
Thanks to these and other underwater technologies Welaptega has developed, its international and national client list includes Chevron, BP, Exxon, Shell, Suncor Energy, and Husky.
Companies such as these continue to turn to Welaptega to help solve offshore problems. In fact, Welaptega recently created a 3-D model of a damaged wellhead for Chevron that saved the oil giant close to $100 million.
“It’s that kind of innovation that is changing the industry,” says Hall. “Our model allowed Chevron to fix the wellhead without it having to be pulled from the water.”
A marine biologist, Hall started working at Welaptega in 1991; he’s keenly aware that technology never stands still, and that for his company to remain on the leading edge it can never stop evolving.
“We’re a technology integrator and aggregator as well as a technology developer,” he says. “We innovate continuously. We’re more like a design house than an engineering firm.”
Currently, Hall and his team are developing an HD/3-D video system, and within the next five years he envisions moving into new and unchartered waters with the development of 3-D printing. In the future, Hall predicts being able to provide clients with not only valuable information but also the ability to build components on-site, possibly on the back deck of a survey vessel.
Staying on the leading edge has translated into a 30% annual growth over the past three years. With that growth, Hall wants to raise some private capital to allow Welaptega to expand its global reach.
“We’re building the company’s client base around the world and plan to open offices in Houston, Brazil, and Singapore or Perth,” he says. “Our blue-chip clients are so happy with us, they don’t want to go elsewhere.”