Asset installations in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry require regular inspections to maintain the installations fit for service. These assets need to be inspected because of safety requirements and maintenance needs, but inspections are mainly performed to:
- Assess the condition of the assets
- Determine which components are degraded or to determine their corrosion rate
- Clean out the installations and to conduct general maintenance
Plant operation must often be interrupted to allow for safe execution of these activities. There is a strong drive to maximise the “availability” of the installations by shortening shutdowns (e.g. quick entry of vessels and tanks by a robot), or conducting more inspection activities while the plant is operating (by utilising robots).
Nearly all of the inspection tasks are carried out by human intervention. In order to carry out an inspection, humans need to enter the asset (often a confined space) or be in an otherwise potentially hazardous location to perform the tasks. Often when inspection occurs it requires elaborate and expensive measures to create safe conditions for personnel. In some cases it might not be feasible to access the asset for inspection and it may limit numbers of personnel available; robots could replace human interventions (operator walks; inspection task).
The PETROBOT project aims to develop a series of robotic solutions which can be used by inspectors to conduct remote inspection of pressure vessels and aboveground storage tanks widely used in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry. The project also aims to open up the oil, gas and petrochemical markets for inspection robotics by developing new robotic inspection solutions and validating these in real world use cases, namely off-line internal inspection of pressure vessels and in-line inspection of aboveground storage tanks.
The objective of the PETROBOT project is minimise the exposure of personnel to potentially hazardous conditions, reduce downtime and save resources by using robotic technology to end the above procedure, which is long and costly.
PETROBOT mobilises the complete value chain, including robot and inspection technology providers, inspection service companies and end-users. The inspection robots will be tested in the installations of the end-user consortium members. Special project activities aim at preparing the future user community to maximise the uptake of the new technology.
The main proposed benefits of utilising PETROBOT for the internal inspection of off-line pressure vessels and in-line aboveground storage tanks include:
- Avoiding or minimising the need for human entry into assets and thereby increasing safety.
- Ability to move humans farther away from hazardous environments and thereby enhancing their safety in the workplace.
- Minimising and shortening operational disruptions and asset downtime, which result from inspections.
- Eliminating or reducing costs associated with performing inspection tasks.
- Gathering adequate inspection data which can support important decision-making in order to increase asset lifetime.