Robots could soon be working autonomously alongside humans on a North Sea platform, as part of a new project from the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Total E&P (Total) 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. The landmark project could start a revolution in robotics offshore that improves safety, enhances productivity and reduces costs.
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.
Integrating robots for the everyday dirty and dangerous tasks that workers encounter every day is expected to improve quality of the jobs, as well as attracting the next generation oil and gas workforce, explained Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Centre Manager.
A robot working alongside humans on a North Sea platform isn’t a distant aspiration, it could be a reality in the next 18-months, paving the way for a robotics revolution. Robotics has the potential to transform the offshore oil and gas industry.
As informed, the robot is certified to work in gas environments without risk of ignition (ATEX-certified), while it 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 ARGOS robot that are more robust and reliable and can be operated by workers offshore without the requirement for onsite robotics experts.
Jean-Michel Munoz, Next-Generation Conventionals Manager for Total S.A., said:
“Surface robotics has the potential to completely change the way we operate and design facilities in the future. Implementing this technology on our sites will bring benefits in terms of operation safety and cost optimization. This development of a fully autonomous robot for operator rounds and anomaly detection is the first step in implementing robotics solutions at industrial scale.”