Japanese engineering, procurement and construction company Toyo Engineering has handed Singaporean offshore engineering player NuStar Technologies a contract for a “pioneering” deep-sea mineral extraction system.
NuStar confirmed it had been awarded the contract for the subsea mineral extraction system package design and fabrication.
It claims the system, which is slated for delivery in 2022, will be the world’s first rare-earth mud extraction technology advancement towards a commercial production ready system capable of operating in extreme water depths.
The award forms part of Japan's Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Programme (SIP), led by the Japan Agency for Marine- Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), which is looking to develop an engineering system for exploring and retrieving rare-earth resources from the ocean floor off Japan, in water depths as deep as 6000 metres.
JAMSTEC has partnered with Toyo to draw on the Japanese engineering company’s oil and gas research and development experience, which in turn hired NuStar to provide the subsea mineral extraction system package.
NuStar said the package includes a collection pipe, flow control device, pumping manifold unit and control modules, adding some of the equipment being developed in the system to operate at depths of 6000 metres would be a world first.
It also noted the control devices would be electrically operated without the use of hydraulics due to the extreme water depth and environmental concerns.
“It is through the many years of working experiences for deep-water technology and providing offshore bespoke solutions to our clients, which instrumented NuStar’s team to demonstrate capabilities beyond conventional oil and gas equipment,” said NuStar managing director Goi Kim Kok.
Japan’s SIP programme was originally established in 2014 after researchers in 2012 identified large reserves of rare-earth elements in deep-sea muds in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The programme’s aim is to survey geological features on the seafloor and make a rough estimate of the amount of rare-earth element deposits in the Minami-Torishima area, off the coast of Japan.
It also aims to develop an engineering system for effectively retrieving concentrated rare-earth element deposits from under the seafloor, with JAMSTEC looking to develop the world’s first survey and retrieval system for deep-sea resources containing rare-earth elements.