Inspection Robots Invade Oil and Gas Space

Autonomous inspection robots, which have been proven through recent pilot programs to detect leaks and corrosion problems during routine inspections at onshore oil and gas sites, could soon debut offshore.

Autonomously operating robots from Wood and Xplorobot navigate around separators at a plant collecting operating data, such as visual, thermal, low- and high-frequency acoustic, FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed), and gas-sensing through devices mounted on the robots. (Source: Wood)

Robots are detecting methane leaks and corrosion problems during routine inspections, which decreases nonproductive time at facilities and frees up humans to do other work.

Using robots for inspection brings certain benefits, such as removing humans from hazardous and tedious work. Placing different sensors on the robots allows for the collection of large quantities of data that can then be processed to show problems. Repeated inspections allow for time-lapse understanding of the condition of a facility.

Xplorobot and Wood have run a few pilot inspection projects using Boston Dynamics’ Spot and SMP Robotics wheeled robots at gas plants and processing plants and aim to take the technology offshore soon.

Using robots for inspections offers several benefits, including removing humans from potentially unsafe activities, taking over routine and tedious activities to allow humans to focus on more critical activities, and higher levels of accuracy with the inspections.

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Jennifer Pallanich

Jennifer Pallanich is Hart Energy's senior editor for technology. She has reported on the technology that fuels oil patch exploration, development and production for more than two decades.