Offshore Robot Initiative Wins Pledges from Operators

Offshore Robot Initiative Wins Pledges from Operators
Offshore robot prototypes undergo testing. PHOTO SOURCE: OGTC

Total E&P and Equinor have committed to deploying robots within their future site operations, the U.K.-based Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) reported Monday.

Other members of the initiative to develop what reportedly will be the world’s first Offshore Work Class Robot (OWCR) include technology developer Taurob and battery manufacturer Saft, UK-based OGTC noted in a written statement emailed to Rigzone. The research center focuses on maximizing economic resource recovery from the U.K. Continental Shelf (UKCS).

“Total E&P and Equinor’s commitment to robots within site operations validates the development and competency around use case specification,” Andy Bell, project manager with OGTC’s Asset Integrity Solution Centre, stated. “These collaborations with Taurob and Saft allow the industry to pioneer developments in robotics and position the UKCS at the heart of innovation.”

The OWCR program will represent the next stage of development for the Offshore Ground Robotics Industrial Pilot (OGRIP) that Taurob and Total E&P unveiled at the SPE Offshore Europe 2019 event last month, OGTC stated. Describing OGRIP as primarily a “surveillance vehicle,” OGTC noted that OWCR will boast an improved chassis and add “active manipulation” to its existing surveying, inspection and observation capabilities.

“Exploration and production operations are conducted in increasingly harsh and challenging conditions, including extreme cold, arid climates and isolated locations,” Jean-Michel Munoz, R&D Next Generation Facilities Project Manager for Total E&P’s Deep Offshore Program, stated. “This project is key to Total’s forward-thinking approach, making operations safer by reducing the exposure of personnel to potentially high-risk situations and the immense challenges our teams face – paving the way for tomorrow’s simpler, streamlined and less expensive facilities that will require less annual maintenance.”

By automating routine inspection tasks with the OWCR, operators will be able to devote more time to complex tasks that robots cannot yet perform, Munoz added.

“Equinor recently awarded the first contract on use of wireless, automated underwater drones in the oil and gas industry,” stated Stine Vatneberg, Equinor’s automation technology leader for R&D. “We look forward to test and deploy the world’s first autonomous grounded robot in collaboration with key partners.”

Vatneberg commented the OWCR will rely on a pioneering battery certified for explosive atmospheres (ATEX).

“Maximizing the robot’s operational time in an ATEX environment requires a high-capacity battery with the ability to fast-charge,” noted Vatneberg. “The project scope will break new ground by introducing a fully ATEX-certified lithium-ion battery, increasing operational usefulness, extend performance and will unlock many new applications.”

Paul Gallot-Lavallee, general manager of Saft France’s Space and Defense Division, pointed out the lithium-ion battery – the Saft MP176065 ise model cell – is designed to operate a robot maintenance-free for one year. He added the cell boats an energy range of 500 to 1,000 Watt hous (Wh) and can operate in severe environmental conditions in temperatures from -22 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 to 60 degrees Celsius).

“Our cells are arranged in a modular architecture that allows the robot manufacturer to adapt the sizing to the stringent needs of oil and gas platforms,” said Gallot Lavallee. “Moreover, the largely improved charging rate and cycling lifetime compared to traditional batteries will allow for a continuous and smooth operation of the robot.”

Taurob Managing Director Matthias Biegl stated that OGRIP represents the starting point for deploying ground robots with increasingly robust capabilities across the oil and gas industry.

“Together with Total E&P, Equinor, Saft and OGTC, we will completely redesign robots to fulfill the needs of solo missions and a high level of complexity regarding manipulation and safety,” Biegl commented. “In parallel, we have started to set up an integrated robotics production and support service to facilitate worldwide rollout of robots together with our partner, Dietsmann.”

OGTC noted that Taurob and Total E&P are presenting details on the large-scale application of robotics for inspection and maintenance this week at a conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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