Petrobot Project launched
September 2013: Launch of the Petrobot Project
So far, to ensure inspectors' safety, oil, gas and petrochemical plants have to shut down during inspection operations: vessels have to be decoupled from live sections of the plant (closing a valve is not sufficient); then vessels are extensively cleaned to remove all products that can emit flammable or toxic gases; scaffolding is then erected in larger vessels, so that inspectors can access all necessary areas. After inspection (which often lasts for a few hours) all this work is done in reverse. This long and costly procedure could soon be reduced thanks to robotic technology, thus reducing the exposure of personnel to potentially hazardous conditions, saving the industry time and resources, as well as opening up new markets for the European robotics industry and allowing for the creation of new jobs in robotics manufacturing and maintenance.
The PETROBOT contract will be signed at Shell’s Technology Centre in Amsterdam, by senior executives of the EC and Shell, in the presence of the consortium members.
PETROBOT intends to develop and validate new robot inspection technologies for:
1. Internal inspection of pressure vessels, when the vessel is off-line - a robot (in the shape of a snake arm or a crawler) will enter the vessel via a manhole or a nozzle after the vessel is taken out of service (off-line); the robot will then scan along the vessel wall for damages.
2. Inspection of storage tanks, while the tank is in use - a robot will enter the tank while the product (petrol or intermediate products) stays in place; the robot will then scan over the tank bottom for damages.
To scan vessel walls or tank floors, robots will be using specialist inspection tools. These tools allow robots to detect any damage, and have to provide the same inspection capacity as obtained from an inspector.
Regular inspection of safety critical parts of process installations is essential to ensure their integrity.
The PETROBOT initiative was born out of a R&D program performed by Shell Global Solutions International B.V., part of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, with support of Quasset B.V., a Dutch SME with expertise in condition assessment technology development.