Allseas to Convert Drillship to Deep-Sea Metals Collection Vessel

Mike Schuler
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March 2, 2020
Image courtesy Allseas

A former Petrobras drillship will be repurposed to harvest deep-sea metals needed to unlock the full potential of electric-powered vehicles and other ‘green’ technologies.

Swiss-based Allseas announced Monday it has acquired the former ultra-deepwater drillship Vitoria 10000 for conversion to a polymetallic nodule collection vessel.

Found on the ocean floor, polymetallic nodules contain high grades of nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt, the key metals required for building electric vehicle batteries and other renewable energy technologies. 

Allseas said it is working with DeepGreen Metals, Inc. to develop a deep-sea mineral collection system to responsibly recover polymetallic nodules from the Pacific Ocean and transfer them to the surface for transportation to shore. The ship will be converted to accommodate the pilot nodule collection system currently being engineered by Allseas. 

As a former drillship, the Vitoria 10000’s configuration is apparently well-suited for the installation of 4.5 km-long riser currently being developed by Allseas. After the nodules have been collected and taken to shore, they will be processed using a metallurgical flowsheet developed by DeepGreen. 

“Allseas is excited to be involved in the exploration of the deep ocean for these important metals” says Allseas Founder and President Edward Heerema. “Deep-sea polymetallic nodule collection represents a new frontier and a new exciting chapter in Allseas’ history. With our offshore expertise and innovative capability, we can develop creative technical solutions for this new industry.” 

Allseas expects the vessel to be operational for pilot nodule collection tests by mid 2021. 

For its part, DeepGreen is undertaking the world’s largest integrated ocean surface-to-seabed research program to fully understand the impact of collecting nodules from the ocean floor. 

“To have partners like Allseas bring their engineering excellence and passion to help get this industry started makes us, and the industry, very fortunate,” said DeepGreen Chairman and CEO Gerard Barron. 

“The green transition is going to require hundreds of millions of tonnes of nickel, copper and cobalt, and our research shows that ocean polymetallic nodules could provide society with these critical minerals at a fraction of the environmental and social impacts associated with land-based extraction,” said Barron.

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