• Innovair

Survey & Inspection of Critical Infrastructure

In a previous article we told you about our Innovair story. We discussed some of the challenges and pivots experienced on our journey to date and described how we established ourselves as a leading Survey, Inspection and Robotics solutions provider. Today we are discussing the importance of survey & inspection for critical infrastructure.

Given the current global situation, maintaining Critical Infrastructure has become an increased national focus. It can be defined as ‘those facilities, systems, sites, information, people, networks and processes necessary for a country to function and upon which daily life depends’.

Front-line workers across the country continue to work tirelessly to protect crucial sectors, including Emergency Services, Food and Health. Other sectors such as Chemicals, Energy, Transport and Water have also had to adapt in order to ensure the continued availability, delivery and integrity of their essential services.

The latter sectors are the most aligned with today’s topic, having high-value assets and sites in need of ongoing survey and inspection.

We will not go into detail on all industries or the specifics of their criticality here however some examples include:

  • Oil & Gas sector, where ageing onshore and offshore assets need to continue to produce, store, refine and distribute products

  • Renewables sector, where structures such as wind turbines and solar PV farms require ongoing inspection & maintenance, or the;

  • Utility sector, where electric power generation, transmission, and distribution are necessary to serve the public with a continuous supply of power to their homes.

Why does Critical Infrastructure require Survey & Inspection?

It is important to note that inspection and surveying, although different, are often closely linked. There is crossover in the use of the collected data, where owners and operators, responsible for the continued safety and operation of their assets and sites, base decisions on these results throughout an assets or projects lifecycle.

Generally, an inspection will involve an examination of a structure or component to determine condition, while surveying is typically used to measure and understand physical dimensions.

From commissioning, through operation and in-service requirements to decommissioning, a range of surveys and inspections need to be carried out. Collating this data provides an invaluable understanding and helps ensure optimal operation & productivity. It enables any required repairs to be completed efficiently and, importantly, allows prediction of potential failures and provides the opportunity to mitigate these early.

Maintaining a consistent strategy of survey and inspection, even during unprecedented times, is crucial to preventing unplanned downtime and disruption to operations or supply.

In terms of when a survey or inspection would be instructed, some of the key drivers for a scope of work could include:

  • Feasibility & Design requirements

  • Base line verification requirements

  • Manufacturer Guidance

  • Legislation e.g. Health & Safety requirements or insurance

  • Periodic Inspections

  • Modifications & Design changes

  • Damage / Deterioration / Failure experienced

  • Productivity issues encountered

Examples of Critical Infrastructure Survey & Inspection

The scope of work for any survey or inspection will be defined using various factors and be specific to the exact details of any asset, site or component of interest. It will clearly state what the owner/operator needs to understand from the results, consider what stage in the lifecycle the infrastructure is at and what other drivers for the work are at play.

Offshore Wind Farm Inspection

Wind farm operators have a need to inspect wind turbines and their blades on a regular basis. Throughout their lifetime blades will show signs of wear and structural fatigue and inspections are crucial in order to identify any defects, correctly categorise these, instruct any repairs and allow the operator to maintain the operating efficiency and integrity of the blades. In most cases a visual inspection is the primary method for completing these assessments, with drones and robotics becoming an ever more favoured solution for management of this infrastructure.

Utilities Survey and Inspection

For the Utility sector, all transmission towers, structures, assets, circuit routes, substation sites and other infrastructure require survey and inspection. The data captured and reported during these works assists in ensuring a safe, reliable and available network whilst informing maintenance and asset condition strategies. Whether inspection of Electricity transmission lines, structural inspection, route surveys or for other requirements, the remote locations and vast quantity of these items across the country is driving operators to look at safer and more efficient means of data collection.

Road Survey

Road surveys may be completed for several reasons. From Transport authorities wanting to assess any issues, in their drive to maintain these essential routes, or the many users of this critical infrastructure may need to understand specific areas or routes in detail, in order to plan and safely transport necessary goods and key components for their projects to site.

Offshore Oil & Gas Asset Inspection

With the majority of offshore oil & gas assets in UK waters operating in late life or life extension phases there is a significant focus on survey & inspection. Assurance, integrity and maintenance are just some of the teams who rely on the data to ensure the assets can continue to operate safely. These structures are complex and have many systems and critical items which all need to be regularly assessed to determine their condition.

When coupled with the current pressures of a low oil price and uncertainty related to a global pandemic, it is clear to see how technology, including a movement towards digital twins, autonomous robotics and IOT, will help reduce costs, reduce people onsite and maximise the economics of this sector.

This is not an exhaustive list of applications of survey & inspection for Critical Infrastructure, there are many requirements, and for each requirement there are many solutions. As technology has developed over recent years a drive for more efficient survey & inspection has been possible. Systems such as drones, remote access crawlers and more advanced robotics have begun to generate efficiencies and most importantly, keep people safe, in some of the more dangerous environments which often accompany Critical Infrastructure.

To find out more about Innovair’ experience in this area, some brief case studies for recent projects can be found here.

If you have critical infrastructure that might need survey or inspection, we would love to hear from you. See our diary availability for a quick chat here. We look forward to it.