The Metals Company collaborating with Kongsberg Digital to create a seafloor nodule mining system digital twin

The Metals Company (TMC) recently entered into an agreement with Kongsberg Digital, a leading provider of high-technology systems and solutions for the oil and gas, merchant marine, defense and aerospace industries. In advance of TMC’s initial nodule collector drive test in the Atlantic Ocean planned for early next year and followed by full pilot collection system trials in the Pacific Ocean later in 2022, the parties intend to create a digital twin to enable 3D visualisation of deep-sea operations in a dynamic dashboard for review by various stakeholders. The digital twin will integrate vessel information from the surface support vessel Hidden Gem with data collected from the pilot nodule collector robot and riser system, as well as data collected by independent scientists aboard a test monitoring vessel.

Once completed and validated, the digital twin will be a core component of TMC’s future Adaptive Management System. The company plans to build out its AMS as an iterative and predictive state-of-the-art system that will use environmental and operational data to enable TMC to keep its deep-sea activities within ecological thresholds expected to be set by the International Seabed Authority. The AMS will draw on expert opinion and machine learning to improve operational efficiencies and reduce the uncertainty of the environmental impact over time.

Gerard Barron, Chairman and CEO of The Metals Company, said: “Polymetallic nodules sit on the seafloor in complete darkness at 4-km depths but we plan to collect them in clear sight and in a manner that is accessible and accountable to the regulator and stakeholders from anywhere in the world. The Digital Twin will give us visibility — that’s the first critical step. From there, we will keep gathering data, learning, predicting, and adapting our operations with environmental protection and operational efficiency in mind. This is a mission-critical system for us, and we could not have chosen a better, more experienced partner than Kongsberg Digital.”

“We are excited to partner with TMC in what will be the world’s first operational and environmental industrial work surface for deep-sea polymetallic nodule collection,” said Hege Skryseth, President of Kongsberg Digital and EVP KONGSBERG. “With the successful rollout of Kongsberg Digital’s ‘Kognitwin’ in the energy industry, we are delighted to now be working with TMC to deliver a digital twin solution designed to help simulate and manage the deep-sea nodule collection process within regulatory requirements. Collaborating and innovating to deliver solutions to enable a more sustainable operation for producing metals — that are critical to power economic growth — is an exciting opportunity.”

Upon successful completion of the initial work under the agreement, TMC and Kongsberg Digital may choose to enter into a broader agreement to complete the development of systems and software to support the operation of the Digital Twin.

Through its strategic partnership with Allseas, TMC is developing a deep-sea nodule collection system to responsibly recover polymetallic nodules from the seafloor and transfer them to the surface for transportation to an onshore processing plant. Across two contract areas held by its subsidiaries, the company has identified 1.6 billion tonnes of nodules, containing in situ resources of nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese it says equivalent to the requirements of 280 million electric vehicles – about the size of the entire US passenger vehicle fleet.