​Robotic autonomous operational inspection to be trialled on Total North Sea platform

Robot developed by taurob and TU Darmstadt can perform visual inspections on offshore platforms. Image: Oil & Gas Technology Centre

Robots could soon be working autonomously alongside humans on a North Sea platform as part of a world-first project from the U.K. Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Total E&P and taurob, in partnership with Technische Universitaet Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt).

The 18-month project will develop and trial a mobile robot for autonomous operational inspection of facilities on Total’s onshore Shetland Gas Plant and offshore Alwyn platform.

The trial is the first time an autonomous ground robot will be used on an operational oil and gas installation, according to the Oil & Gas Technology Centre. The landmark project could start a revolution in robotics offshore that improves safety, enhances productivity and reduces costs, it said.

The Technology Centre and Total are developing the robot with Austrian manufacturer taurob and TU Darmstadt in Germany, who collaborated to win Total’s ARGOS (Autonomous Robots for Gas and Oil Sites) challenge in 2017.

The challenge involved developing an autonomous robot that could perform routine tasks and respond to challenges in a simulated oil and gas operational environment.

The robot developed by taurob and TU Darmstadt is ATEX-certified (certified to work in gas environments without risk of ignition), can perform visual inspections, read dials, level gauges and valve positions, navigate through narrow pathways and up and down stairs, measure temperature and gas concentration, and detect and navigate around obstacles and humans.

The project will develop a further two versions of the successful ARGOS robot that are more robust and reliable, have improved functionality and can be operated by workers offshore without the requirement for onsite robotics experts.

“Robotics has the potential to transform the offshore oil and gas industry. We have countless repetitive, dirty and potentially dangerous tasks carried out every day. Integrating robots for these tasks will help upskill our workforce and improve the quality of the jobs. Projects like this will help inspire and attract the next generation oil and gas workforce,” Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Centre manager, said in a statement.

“Total believes that robots have the potential to play an important role on offshore platforms. We are on the cusp of delivering technology that will improve safety, reduce costs and even prolong the life of North Sea operations. Robots represent an exciting new paradigm for the oil and gas offshore industry and Total is proud to be part of it,” added Dave Mackinnon, head of Technology & Innovation for Total E&P UK.