Tech start-up works with Phillips 66 to develop storage tank inspection robot

Image: JWN

Boston-based Square Robot, Inc. has partnered with Phillips 66 to advance development of an autonomous robot capable of inspecting petroleum product storage tank floors while product remains in the tank.

The untethered robot is being designed and will be certified for use in a wide range of petroleum products and is expected to enter service in mid-2018, the companies said.

Aboveground storage tanks are routinely removed from service to be drained, opened and cleaned at great expense in order to evaluate tank bottoms. The new robot is being developed to automatically survey and map obstacles within a tank—while the tank remains in static service—creating a specific route map allowing maximum coverage of the tank floor.

Using the non-destructive testing data gathered, a certified inspector will produce a floor thickness map allowing for a more accurate prediction of a tank floor’s remaining life.

Square Robot was started by three Subsea Robotics professionals in 2016, specifically to address the need for swimming autonomous robots for oil and gas applications. Aside from terrestrial tanks, the same autonomous hovering technology will have broad ranging applications for subsea infrastructure inspection, the company said.

The rapidly growing start-up has recently completed a first round of fundraising and currently employs 12 engineers. The company said it intends to launch a tank floor inspection service business in Houston during the summer of 2018.

“Our collaboration with Phillips 66 provides access to a significant team of experts in NDT inspection, safety, procedures and operations,” Eric Levitt, Square Robot co-founder, said in a statement. “As a start-up, we would not have access to these tremendous resources outside of our core business of developing autonomous robots for confined spaces.”

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