MARL Technologies Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, was presented with the Project Achievement Award at the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta’s (APEGA) Summit Awards gala April 19, for the MARL SubSea Drill.

The award is presented to a project demonstrating engineering or geoscience skills and representing a substantial contribution to technical progress and the betterment of society. Company founder and owner Ron Innes says, “I’m pleased the hard work and years of development that went into this drill has been recognized by APEGA. This drill is an accomplishment we are proud of, and I’m very proud of the MARL team for persevering through the many challenges we faced.”

In 2008, Gregg Drilling and Testing Inc. of Signal Hill, Calif., approached MARL to build a sea-bottom drill capable of conducting geotechnical and mineral investigations and core sampling. One of Gregg’s key requirements was the drill had to combine proven subsea components with the best terrestrial drilling technologies.

In 2011, MTI delivered to Gregg the MARL SubSea Drill, a submersible offshore drill for geologic and geotechnical investigations, mineral exploration and scientific research. The drill can efficiently obtain core samples at depths in sea water as great as 10,000 feet. Because the drill can be operated in water pressure exceeding 4,000 psi, all drill functions must be controlled from a remote operator station on the ship above the drill. Existing subsea robotic arm technology was adapted to perform the key functions of pipe and tooling handling. To increase handling efficiency, a platform for the arm was designed to allow for an additional axis of motion. This marked the first time a high-functioning robotic arm was used on a sea-bottom coring drill.

Onshore drilling is under continuous pressure to provide safer drills to reduce hazards to drill crews. Automation – and the use of robotics – has the potential to reduce drilling hazards, and also may reduce the amount of labor needed for drilling operations.  Integration of offshore technology with traditional terrestrial drilling techniques will help achieve these aims.