Petrochemical assets are complex and made of multiple components, most of which need inspection. These assets are used for the processing, storage and transport of (oil and gas) products. The petrochemical industry is usually divided into three major business streams: upstream, midstream, and downstream.
Upstream is defined as where the exploration, development and production of crude oil or natural gas are performed. Midstream involves the transportation (by pipeline, rail or barge), storage, and wholesale (marketing) of crude oil or raw gas to the downstream process. Downstream refers to the refining of petroleum crude oil and the processing and raw natural gas, in addition to the marketing and distribution of products originating from crude oil and natural gas. Within each of these sectors the integrity and condition of the assets that allow the exploration, extraction, refinement and transportation of the resources (oil and gas) are paramount to their business operations. Inspection activities are key in making this happen and robotics can play an ever increasing role within these business streams to increase safety and minimise human entry into the assets.
Throughout the petrochemical industry there are a wide range of aboveground storage tanks and pressure vessels that are used to hold and process product. These assets vary in size and shape, consist of different construction materials and have different internal characteristics, such as internal coatings and internal features.