Jaxon Caines, technology reporter, Hart Energy: Robots scaling a tank battery or crawling through a pipeline? Sounds like Sci-Fi, right? But the deployment of these gecko-like robots is already underway. This is your Hart Energy Live Exclusive interview with Gecko Robotics at the 24th World Petroleum Congress.
Paul Oates, head of business development, Gecko Robotics: We've got a fleet of robots, everything, mostly crawlers, but we also have partnerships with submersible robots, like submarines, that do inline inspections where there's actually product within the tank. We can integrate drones as well. So flying robots to look at large scale assets and incorporate all of that into an analytics platform.
JC: Can you walk us through how this robot maneuvers and how it gathers data?
PO: These wheels on this, this is the TOKA 4.0, are magnetic, and so it actually sticks to the wall of a tanker or a large diameter pipeline. And we have an operator that uses a remote control to operate the robot up and down the asset shooting tens of millions of data points on the asset using ultrasonic technology. And that's what these transducers are right there. And with that insight, we can model that into an analytics program to help asset managers determine when they should pull the tank out of service or how best they should optimize fleet of assets.
JC: What are some advantages of these crawling robots?
PO: The first and foremost is safety. And so the way it's been traditionally done to date, many operators in the field [employed] up to maybe five or seven inspectors using scaffolding and ropes climbing upside the side of a tank. And sometimes that tank could be 40 or 50 feet high. The advantage of this is clearly removing those people from hazardous environments, whereas the robot can stick to the tank and actually do that work in a 10th of the time.
JC: In terms of data gathering, compared to the days when companies would perform inspections with workers or scaffolding and performing manual inspections, how has your technological capabilities evolved?
PO: We've introduced a handful of robots based upon the demands of our customers. We actually have a robot today that can inspect concrete, and we're working on that to look at foundational issues. This is the TOKA 4.0. We actually have a TOKA 5.0, which is much lighter, much easier to use, much more reliable. And again, in terms of the data acquisition standpoint, it can do, like I said, tens of millions of data point acquisitions, where previously it was maybe tens of thousands.
JC: There's typically been a resistance to adapting new technology, especially in the energy industry. How do you see your company not just continuing to integrate into the industry, but help it evolve as well?
PO: We like to work backwards from our customer and solve pain points that exist today. When we allow technology to provide more data points to help decision making around asset management, safety and even profitability and sustainability, I think it kind of speaks for itself in terms of the drivers there, and so we're always happy to partner and collaborate with our customers in the field.
JC: What is next for Gecko Robotics?
PO: As we continue to evolve, we're going more and more towards deep analytics. Obviously using an analytic platform around preventative maintenance and helping people that own a profit loss statement around an asset make really, really granular decisions on how best to remove assets in the field and monitor and keep them going for many more years to come. So as we continue to develop, there'll probably be more robots to see in the years to come and obviously a much deeper, in-depth analytics program.
JC: That's your Hart Energy Live Exclusive interview with Gecko Robotics. Learn more about these robots and the future of the industry at hartenergy.com.
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