An unmanned floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) concept has been unveiled by Norway-based classification and verification organization DNV GL.

The vessel is designed to overcome many of the challenges currently faced by operators looking to unlock the potential of remote offshore gas fields, DNV GL said.

Called Solitude, the concept would use fuel cell technology instead of high-maintenance gas turbines for power, and robots for autonomous inspection and maintenance. Wireless sensor networks would feed information to a condition monitoring system that oversees fault detection, proactive maintenance and repair planning.

According to DNV GL, this solution could cut operational expenditure by around 20 percent, while only increasing capital expenditure by "a few percent" and at the same time increasing overall safety.

"Solitude has been developed with maintainability foremost in mind," said Elisabeth Tørstad, CEO of Oil & Gas at DNV GL. "By changing the focus from maximum efficiency to maximum reliability, and selecting robust processing options with built-in redundancy, we were able to develop a solution that ensures production levels and boosts the economic viability of FLNG projects."

Technology in the oil and gas industry is developing rapidly as the industry seeks out resources in more remote waters.

"Operators are already controlling subsea installations and simple, fixed offshore installations from shore," Tørstad pointed out. "Given the ongoing advances in autonomous systems and remote operations, unmanned offshore installations are a natural development over the next few decades."

She concluded: "While Solitude is a holistic concept, many of its solutions can be implemented independently — and some are already available today. These projects are our way of thinking out loud. Our aim is to present high-level concepts that can form a basis for discussion and be further developed in collaboration with the industry. We see Solitude as a new opportunity for the future."