With demand for oil increasing and demand for refined-product storage within the midstream sector also increasing, operational reliability and uptime have become a greater priority for the owners and users of terminals and tank farms. The industry sees value in optimizing tank turnaround schedules and extending tank in-service intervals by predicting and avoiding failures while reducing the health, safety, and environmental risks associated with waste removal and human exposure. Robotic applications have developed to the point where they can help improve the reliability, safety, and costs of tank storage. Getting companies on board with robotics is not an issue, but finding the right in-service tank-inspection approaches for robotic applications is. Rengifo spoke at a panel discussion during the American Petroleum Institute Inspection and Mechanical Integrity Summit that focused on ways in which owners and users can incorporate robotics into their tank-integrity programs, as well as the obstacles they and other vendors face in facilitating robotics.
Virtually all equipment in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry requires some kind of periodic inspection. Pressure vessels are an important part of the production process; currently the inspection of these are being done by human inspectors that require entry into the vessels. The working environment inside these vessels is potentially dangerous, and substantial precautions must be taken ensure the safety of the inspectors. These precautions take considerable time, making the inspection both very costly and hazardous.
Robotic technology offers a safe alternative to human entry, and is now advanced enough to perform inspections remotely, minimising human entry thus increasing safety.
The PETROBOT project has brought together inspection methods and robotic technology to reduce risks and cost involved in inspection of pressure vessels. PETROBOT comprises the complete value chain, from robot and inspection technology providers, to inspection service providers and end-users. The project has developed robotic deployment platforms and adapted industry standard inspection techniques to demonstrate the benefits of remote pressure vessel inspection.
This paper presents the use case and progress made under PETROBOT for the inspection of pressure vessels. Two different, yet complementary robots have been developed, one a magnetic crawler; the other, a snake-arm robot. The two systems enable robotised inspection capabilities in a variety of pressure vessel designs. The robots carry a payload consisting of inspection tools: a camera for visual inspection, structured light for profilometry, and an ultrasonic transducer, and an eddy current transducer.
These novel inspection technologies have been integrated into the robotic systems and have been tested and verified on artificial defects, as well as real pressure vessels in a laboratory environment. During the final stages of the PETROBOT project, they will be deployed in real installations of the participating end users.