Tech centre developing next generation of robotics for oil and gas

Image: Oil & Gas Technology Centre

The U.K.-based Oil & Gas Technology Centre has invested in three robotics projects to transform pressure vessel inspection, which it says costs the industry hundreds of millions each year and poses significant safety challenges.

The projects were selected as part of our first Asset Integrity Call for Ideas, which launched in 2017. Pressure vessel inspection was identified by the industry as a crucial challenge to maximizing economic recovery from the U.K. Continental Shelf.

The tech centre has invested in separate projects with Sonomatic and the University of Strathclyde to transform pressure vessel inspection.

Non-intrusive inspection (NII) of pressure vessels can deliver significant cost and safety benefits. Sonomatic’s aim is to develop the next generation of robotic NII technology, with improved speed, agility and autonomy compared with existing systems. The robot, incorporating advanced inspection technologies, will help increase production uptime, reduce costs and improve efficiency.

“There have been significant advances in robotics technology, inspection solutions and data science over the past few years and the support from the Technology Centre will ensure these are soon available in a practical tool for field application,” Mark Stone, Integrity Services manager, Sonomatic, said in a statement.

The University of Strathclyde is working to develop a new robot crawler equipped with 3D laser scanning and non-destructive testing technology. Existing crawlers are typically deployed only when there is clear line-of-sight for the operator. The university’s solution will construct a virtual, dynamic 3D representation of the inspection site meaning it can be operated safely from a remote location.

It is also supporting the University of Strathclyde in the use of swarms of small unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for visual inspection offshore. Drone swarms, which are being rapidly adopted by the military and for logistics activities, could deliver a safe, flexible and cost-effective alternative to human inspection.

In March, the Oil & Gas Technology Centre will launch its second Asset Integrity Call for Ideas, focused on predicting, preventing, detecting and repairing corrosion under insulation.

“We’re always looking for innovative ideas and concepts from inside and outside the oil and gas industry and look forward to launching our next call in March,” said Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Centre manager.

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