Robotic Inspection Technology

There are different kinds of robotic solutions in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry, ranging from subsea systems that are remotely operated to mobile robotic systems for topside use that perform inspection and maintenance operations on assets. Systems range from tailor-made solutions by inspection companies (and are therefore not commercially available) to commercially available inspection systems. The majority of these robotic systems have implemented a limited number of inspection technologies; these include, amongst others, visual and camera systems (most of the robot systems are fitted with visual inspection systems), UT sensors for thickness gauging, and magnetic or electromagnetic systems.

Mobile platform robotic systems

Mobile platform robotic systems refer to robotic systems that perform remote monitoring and/or asset inspections.

Remote monitoring robotic systems

SensabotThe remote monitoring of hazardous on-shore plants and refineries are an emerging field for robotic systems, this also includes unmanned automated topside platforms. Intelligent and reliable robotic and instrumentation systems have been developed to enable onshore operators to monitor and control various part of the plant from a safe location. Robotic systems are being used to allow human operators to perform tasks such as gauge readings, valve and lever operations and monitoring gas level, leakage, acoustic anomalies and surface conditions remotely and safely. The Sensabot, developed by Carnegie Mellon University and supported by Shell, is an example of a remote monitoring robotic system.

Asset inspection robotic systems

IMG_0467There are a number of different robots being developed for the inspection of assets, however these are mainly in the prototype stage or being used in the power generation industry for the inspection of turbines, steam chests, or the inspection of wind turbine support columns and blades. Applications in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry for asset inspections are limited, but the robotic solutions that are being used are typically remote controlled crawlers that use magnetic wheels. These are able to climb the walls and even the roof of (horizontal) assets. Some are able to cover the whole inside area of an asset (without internals) and even negotiate simple obstacles themselves. So far they have been used for applications like the inspection of clean steam chests, PVs, and ASTs from the
outside. Although asset inspection typically requires assets to be taken out of operation, robotic solutions with the capability of inspecting an AST floor while the tank remains in service are available. Examples of robotic systems that can be used for asset inspection include the OTIS, developed by A.Hak, and the MagneBike and FAST, developed by Alstom Inspection Robotics

Manipulation robotic systems

Unlike mobile crawler systems, robotic manipulation systems are based on an articulatedV2 image 2 design where there are multiple joints that can move the robot within a given workspace. There are a number of different types of manipulation based systems that are used for visual inspection, UT, and manipulation.

The snake arm robot, by OC Robotics, is a slender hyper-redundant manipulator, with a high degree of freedom which allows highly flexible positioning of its end effector. The robot uses a cable driven system to position the end effector which allows it to positions the tool with great accuracy. It can be equipped with a camera and several tools. With relatively minor adaptations it can be used for other inspection techniques and for transportation of another, dedicated inspection robot to get closer to the location that is to be inspected.

Other robotic systems

Robotic solutions for the inspection and maintenance of assets in the oil, gas andRobotics Birr 010 petrochemical industry has its foundations in the subsea domain. Due to the inaccessible environment (mainly deep sea operations), a Remotely Operated Vehicle, commonly referred to as a ROV, has been used to assist in the development of offshore oil fields. Their tasks range from simple inspection of subsea structures, pipelines and platforms, to connecting pipelines and placing underwater manifolds. They are used extensively both in the initial construction of a subsea development and the subsequent repair and maintenance of the assets. Most ROVs are equipped with video cameras and lighting systems with additional equipment added to expand the vehicle’s capabilities. These often include still cameras, manipulators or cutting arms, water samplers, and instruments that measure water clarity, light penetration, and temperature. There are also inspection and maintenance systems (such as underwater welding) and magnetic or electromagnetic systems for internal and external inspections of pipelines and the structural testing of offshore platforms.

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