Routine Inspection With The Use Of Robots
The oil and gas industry has historically been cautious of embracing new technology. This is, of course, with good reason. Impulsive actions in the volatile conditions found in the sector can have disastrous consequences. Yet is the failure to take advantage of an ever-increasing array of proven robotic solutions actually increasing the danger level?
The following discusses why the softly-softly approach of policy makers that’s been rigidly adhered for decades might well be due for a rethink.
The Many Challenges of Routine Inspection
When it comes to the challenges surrounding essential routine inspection tasks, the list is long. The following is just a snapshot of the many aspects plant owners need to take into account.
- Many locations are remote, often with a harsh climate and high levels of toxic substances, such as hydrogen sulphide
- There are a growing number of unmanned power plants, gas fields, offshore platforms etc.
- Oil and gas fields can be distributed over a huge geographical area
- The cost of reaching many of these locations is high and often hampered by poor weather conditions
- Human entry into hazardous spaces for inspection is costly, both for the risk to health and safety of these individuals and that of downtime to production
These issues have been, up until recently, a necessary expense and hazard to the successful operation of any facility within the oil and gas industry.
How Robotic Inspection Improves Many Routine Inspection Tasks
Robots have evolved dramatically in recent years. From the smallest of crawlers to innovative solutions for vertical asset inspection, the advantages of robotics are many. While it doesn’t remove the need for human intervention, what such technology offers is a symbiotic relationship.
Surveillance Robots can be programmed to carry out a multitude of inspection tasks. Areas can be marked out with tape on the ground, gas detectors can be mounted on the equipment… An on-site inspection robot can even respond immediately to an unexpected event, providing an accurate sit-rep to allow an intervention team to be fully prepared for any dangers.
Other advantages include:
- Reducing or negating the need for humans to enter hazardous areas
- Allows operators to carry out more regular inspections, therefore presenting a proactive approach to maintenance rather than a reactive one should an unplanned event occur
- Inspections can be carried out from a single location, with the operator manning the robot from an office or central control location
- Robots can carry out monotonous inspection tasks every day of the year with the same high degree of accuracy, removing the risk of human error
- A reduction of costs. Less need for shutdowns, better planned maintenance from regular inspection processes, reduced insurance premiums through removing human entry to hazardous environments, less travel costs for trained inspectors to visit various installations
- Improves worker and public perception, thanks to strategic efforts to increase the safety of those working in the field and that of industry standards.
When you weigh up the advantages of utilising the many different robotic solutions available for routine inspection tasks, it’s not so much a question of why to use robots, but rather, why not to? The industry has long dragged its heels when turning to the latest opportunities. However, in this situation it might be that those who fail to do so will, in the not too distant future, come to regret their actions.
A lack of equipment providers who offer a knowledgeable and dynamic approach to robotic inspection equipment might also go some way to explaining why the industry has been slow uptake this new era of working. Enter Nexxis, the Perth-based supplier that offers a unique opportunity of equipment procurement on a global scale with offices also in Houston and Singapore.
Thanks to in-depth industry experience and a desire to provide bespoke solutions to their customers, the Nexxis model of flexible equipment provision is fast-becoming indispensable to those who partner with them. Whether leasing, renting or purchasing, the range of technologically advanced robotics and other inspection apparatus is cutting-edge. In addition, Nexxis understands there is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Instead, dynamic management is what’s necessary to address ever-changing needs.