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Subsea Communication

The term subsea communication includes communication solutions along oil - and gas pipelines in addition to wireless communication in the ocean water volume.

Pipeline communication

The problem of communicating along an oil - and gas - pipeline has been addressed in the project SmartPipe which started in 2006. The developed electromagnetic solution supports a distributed sensor network along the pipe monitoring and reporting in real time the conditions of various parameters such as temperature, stress, vibrations, pressure and corrosion. The solution is targeting both in-field pipes as well as transport pipes from field installations to shore or a distant top side platform. The project is financed by various oil companies and the Norwegian Research council.

Water volume communication

Underwater communication has been an active topic for the CS department since 2005 and we have carried out a number of projects, both national and international. The applications of underwater communication involves both point to point solutions and as solutions for intra network communication in sensor networks. The main focus has been on acoustic signals due to the range flexibility although the application of both radio (Electromagnetic) and light is feasible for short ranges which is included in the international working group SWIG targeting the adaptation of wireless underwater communication in the Oil & Gas industry. SINTEF ICT is a member of this group. Through its expertise in electromagnetic (radio) communication and embedded systems, SINTEF is also in the position of finding solutions from e.g. a surface buoy or some other infrastructure communicating from the subsea installations to an external user. This can be done using either satellite or an earth surface radio solution.

Application areas

The application areas are numerous and encompass supervising of subsea oil and gas installations, environmental monitoring, aquaculture installations, harbour security and intruder detection, underwater mining, etc.

Research topics

For communication two main research topics have been targeted. These are the physical layer and the MAC/routing layer. The research on the physical layer includes both SISO and MIMO in addition to various receiver structures for handling the channel conditions and channel errors through coding. The MAC/routing layers are designed and evaluated taking into the account of the high propagation delay and challenging channel conditions with the potentially high numbers of bit errors. Solutions for sensor networks through multi hop solutions are investigated and demonstrated. To obtain a good operating communication chain, a proper signal processing of the sensor element output is necessary to adapt the amount of transmitted data rate to the acoustic channel capacity.

Work methodology and tools

The research topics are investigated using a combination of analytical approach and by algorithm implementation in software. The physical layer is mostly simulated and analysed using MATLABĀ®. The MAC/routing levels have been simulated using Python, but recent projects have migrated to using Ns2/ns-miracle platform within the DESERT framework (open source platform for underwater communication, developed by University of Padova, Italy). DESERT makes it possible to reuse software for MAC/routing protocols across platforms, e.g., simulations of large networks on a single computer, or as independent underwater protocol stacks on single embedded units. Such cross-platform capabilities give significant gains in development and validation quality as well as cost reductions.


The projects carried out have been and is financed by the industry, Norwegian Research Council and The European Union through the various frameworks. We have also had strategic internal projects financed by SINTEF.

Contact: Knut Harald Grythe