The dust has now settled on Offshore Europe 2017 in Aberdeen, the region’s leading conference for the oil and gas industry, and now is a good time to consider how one of the key takeaways—digitalization coupled with technology—is transforming the industry.
Digitalization was one of the top buzzwords at the show, and lots was heard about the need for the industry to fully embrace the adoption of comprehensive digital platforms as part of what’s been termed “the fourth industrial revolution” through the use of cyberphysical systems.
One presenter proclaimed “data are the new oil.” The oil industry recognizes that great power, and imminent breakthroughs can be found in Big Data by using it in smarter, faster ways. However, resistance regarding workflows and analysis approaches still exists, just as it has for the last 30 years.
One of the more recent areas where the industry is experiencing tangible benefits from the synergies between enhanced digitalization and new technology is in asset surveying and inspection, particularly in challenging locations or situations that were previously dangerous or inaccessible by humans.
Texo DSI (UKCS), the offshore division of Texo Drone Survey and Inspection, is pushing the envelope in precision data collection for oil and gas assets. It presented a number of safe, unique and innovative survey and inspection applications for the oil and gas industry at the conference. One demonstration was of the first-ever unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) survey-grade light detection and ranging (LIDAR) scan of an offshore asset combined with ground-based simultaneous location and mapping.
The UAV can collect phenomenal amounts of information during a 32-minute human-controlled flight, mapping a million points per second. The LIDAR scan, which pulses laser light at structures and analyzes the reflections, produces about 15 GB of data during the brief reconnaissance.
The principle of LIDAR is to measure distances via light in a pulsed laser form and record the time it takes from its generation and subsequent return to calculate distances. Using a specially configured and customized system, can be measured 250 scans per second. Accuracy down to below 5 mm can be generated at about 20 m to 40 m (66 ft to 132 ft) from the target, producing highly accurate asset information.
Post-survey data optimization is conducted to reduce the amount of points and thus enhance the precise data required to ensure that projects are delivered accurately.
So what does this combination of UAVs and laser technology mean for the industry? The ability to offer high-quality precision data acquisition on projects helps operators make the very best engineering decisions at all stages, from preplanning through production and finally to end of life and decommissioning. The scans are much more accurate than ground-based techniques. The technique also removes human risk in hazardous environments where people are exposed to potential injury.
The collaboration between the tailored, most advanced equipment and precision data technology is proving a significant advancement for the industry, with applications in both engineering and asset life-cycle management, and the process’s advantages could make it ubiquitous in the future.
Texo DSI (UKCS) recently deployed the world’s first ultrasonic thickness integrated UAV system, which undertook a wide range of thickness measurement applications and was able to ascertain precise measurements on both flat and curved surfaces. With the ability to indicate thickness via a unique spot identification system, the system will ensure all ultrasonic thickness missions are precise in acquisition and instantaneous in capture and delivery.
The system combines inspection data with a precise photogrammetric visual overlay of the completed survey, pinpointing exact measurement locations on the structure/surface to an accuracy of sub-10 mm and delivering verified inspection data. This new system represents a major development in the field of inspection engineering. The benefits include an enhanced ultrasonic thickness measurement service combined with reduced risk to personnel and efficient of data delivery—data acquisition can be 20 times faster than traditional methods.
This UAV integrated ultrasonic thickness payload has been deployed across a wide range of sectors, including both offshore and onshore wind turbine structures, telecoms, and maritime assets.
The company also is working on many other drone applications for offshore rigs, including winches, and future devices could include UAVs with “grab arms” or painting tools.
The technology was tested on the Paragon HZ1 rig in the North Sea with its giant T28 platform drone.
A team from Texo DSI (UKCS) first traveled to the Port of Esbjerg in Denmark, from where they went on to scan the Paragon Offshore jackup.
Paragon Offshore already has seen the benefits that faster and more accurate precision data can offer. Since the LIDAR scan there has been an improvement in the quality of inspections via more accurate data rather than relying on eyewitness feedback and moving to comparative analysis on trends, specifically around corrosion rates.
Additionally, there has been a reduction to the risk to personnel, with fewer working at height or in confined spaces as well as having a more efficient setup. This has led to significant economic advantages.
The industrywide call for increased digitalization is appropriate and welcome. However, the value of adopting greater digitalization can be increased even further when it is aligned with the latest technologies. The combination of the two is an irresistible force.
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