Hibbard Inshore provides underwater services at Australia’s Snowy Mountain hydropower project

Underwater services provider Hibbard Inshore has completed another round of inspections of Australia’s 3,756-MW Snowy Mountains hydropower project using its tethered vehicles, the Michigan-based company has announced.

Using its newest long-range vehicle, the SAAB Sabertooth, Hibbard Inshore traversed more than 12 km in a single direction through a tunnel for a round-trip exceeding 24 km.

The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was able to collect visual data in addition to scanning the tunnel with multiple types of multibeam sonar to take high-density dimensional data. The company said it was also able to detect cracks, holes, areas of debris buildup, lining failure and rockfalls. Data collected was then used to create three-dimensional models for analysis and maintenance purposes.

Hibbard Inshore has already inspected six trans-mountain tunnels in the Snowy Mountain scheme using the Sabertooth units and will return in 2014 for more inspections.

Previously, the tunnels would have needed to be drained for inspection, making use of the ROV units more time-efficient and safer.

“The use of the unmanned sub for tunnel inspections now means that it can be done more frequently, more safely and without the need to shut down power stations or drain the tunnel,” Snow Hydro Chief Operating Officer Ken Lister said. “This multi-million dollar investment is a great outcome for the business, for the safety of our people and contractors, and is part of our wider program of scheme upgrades and ongoing maintenance.”

The Snowy Mountains scheme is located in southeastern Australia along the Snowy River and its tributaries. The project includes 10 hydropower plants and 16 major dams and reservoirs.

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