Can Robotics support safer and more productive oil & gas assets?
Author: Stuart Lawson
The future of the oil and gas industry is uncertain, but it is expected to continue to be a significant part of the global energy mix. Renewable energy is gaining focus, but fossil fuels like oil and gas will still be in demand. Oil & Gas Operators are looking to improve efficiency and safety while reducing maintenance costs. With aging infrastructure, the industry is turning to (RAS) robotic and autonomous systems for help with maintenance and operation.
Demand for oil and gas in the UK in 2050 will still be around 400 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per annum
+ How are robotics being used?
Robots like drones and ROVs are already being used in the Oil and Gas industry to improve efficiency and safety. These robots can perform routine and non-routine inspections on assets, which reduces the need for human workers to do these tasks in hazardous environments. This not only improves worker safety, but it also reduces the risk of accidents and injuries.
The robots can also be equipped with specialised sensors and tools to collect data on the performance and condition of oil and gas assets. This data can be analysed to identify trends and improve efficiency of operations. The use of RAS technology and processes reduces the number of required mobilisations for inspection campaigns which have additional benefit of reducing the carbon footprint of operations as fewer vessels or helicopters are needed. Overall, this technology is becoming essential for understanding the condition of oil platforms throughout their entire lifecycle and making maintenance decisions, while reducing downtime and costs.
The use of drones for inspections adds significant value by decreasing risks and costs, particularly when working at heights. Drones can be deployed quickly, cover a large area in a shorter period of time and access areas that may be challenging or impossible for technicians to reach using methods such as Rope Access.
Tanks and vessels are just some of the assets that can be inspected using a confined space drone. By conducting a tank inspection using a drone, asset teams can closely examine all surfaces within a tank without having to physically enter the space. While human entry may still be necessary at some point, for repairs or advanced non-destructive testing, the drone can initially screen a potentially hazardous asset to ensure it is safe to enter.
Topside & Ground Based
Spot, a four-legged robot developed by Boston Dynamics, has been used in a variety of industries, including construction, mining, and oil and gas. It has the capability to navigate industrial environments and perform tasks such as inspections and data collection. Among its various industry demonstration projects, it was deployed on an Aker BP FPSO in the Norwegian sector where it was used to read gauges, inspect for corrosion, map the facility, and detect methane. Another robot called Taurob, has been used by operator TOTAL on their sites, acknowledging the many benefits autonomous surface robots provide to reduce the exposure to human operators during critical operations.
Innovations such as magnetic crawlers, advanced NDT scanners or climbing robots can be deployed in both dry and subsea environments and help support faster, more efficient and safer operations. These systems generally require minimal resources and space on vessels or platforms and can be remotely controlled, allowing personnel to work safely from accessible areas.
In addition to visual and NDT inspections, these robots can also perform other tasks such as marine growth cleaning and advanced NDT for tasks like weld inspections. These robotic technologies provide more efficiency, flexibility and safety by reducing human intervention, increasing the accuracy and quality of inspections and even avoiding more costly intervention.
The new generation of Hybrid Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (HUAVs) is making an impact in the energy sector. These underwater robots can operate both autonomously and under human control. They are equipped with sensors and data-gathering tools and can be used for seabed surveys, data collection, and inspections of subsea structures. HUAVs are more flexible and adaptable than other types of autonomous underwater vehicles, as they can switch between autonomous and remote-controlled modes depending on the task.
+ Summary: Robots play a key role
The future of robotics in the oil and gas industry will involve the continued use and development of advanced technologies and more capable robots that can perform a wider range of tasks. These robots will be more efficient and able to perform tasks faster and more accurately than humans, resulting in increased productivity. Robotics will play a crucial role in replacing repetitive inspection tasks, reducing energy costs, and minimizing health and safety risks for personnel currently performing hazardous tasks.
Despite being a mature industry, the oil and gas sector will continue to benefit from the integration of robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) technology. These advanced RAS technologies will improve operations efficiency, lower costs, increase data accuracy, and reduce the environmental impact of operations. With the advancements in AI and machine learning, robots will be able to operate more independently, adapt to different environments, and perform more complex and specialized tasks with increased autonomy, and less human involvement.
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"Thanks for taking the time to read this blog on Robotic Inspection.
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Stuart Lawson BSc, MInstNDT LEP