Due to prolonged low oil prices and demand for improvements in worker safety, in recent years the oil and gas industry has been experimenting with initiatives aimed at improving plant operating efficiency and reducing manpower by utilizing automated robots and digital technologies.
In response to the risk of crude oil price volatility caused by the global spread of COVID-19, there is growing social demand to minimize human involvement in plant operations.
In this context, solutions based on robots that perform automated patrols and plant inspections are currently attracting attention from a wide range of industries. Autonomous robots are expected to be one solution that can remotely monitor plant operations and improve operational efficiency through analysis of collected data.
Sophisticated patrols and inspections are required to prevent accidents and unplanned outages at plants.
Approximately 40% of the 263 incidents that occurred at offshore oil and gas facilities in the waters around the UK in 2018 were caused by hydrocarbon releases (see chart below). In Japan, approximately 40% of the 603 high-pressure gas incidents (including non-oil related incidents) in the same year were caused by inadequate maintenance of facilities. Some of these accidents can cause huge amounts of damage due to the cost of restoration and countermeasures, as well as production loss due to unplanned outages at plants, although some of these could be prevented if abnormalities and signs were detected in advance by routine surveillance and inspections.
Conventional patrols and inspections by humans depend on the skill of the inspector, and in addition to the possibility of errors such as oversight they also pose a significant safety risk in the unlikely event of a gas leak or other incident.
A comprehensive solution is essential to cover the vast area of patrols and inspections.
Although fixed cameras and sensors are useful in automating and reducing manpower requirements, it is technically and economically difficult to cover an entire large plant.
It is desirable to create a comprehensive monitoring system that links autonomous inspection robots equipped with various sensors. However, the development of an explosion-proof robot that can move autonomously through narrow spaces and complicated areas of a plant and has sufficient surveillance and inspection capabilities is extremely difficult and has not been realized.
Field data, such as surveillance and inspection analysis, has not been utilized for facility maintenance.
By analyzing the field data collected during autonomous inspections, in combination with process data and routine inspection records, it is possible to detect signs of problems in a plant and optimize operation. However, in many cases, surveillance and inspection records are still written on paper checklists that are not converted into digital data, leaving this early-detection function not fully utilized.
- POINTS TO BE ADDRESSED
- Development of an autonomous inspection robot that is explosion-proof for ZONE1 (a place that often generates explosive atmospheres under normal conditions) with high mobility and availability.
- Equipping the inspection robot with various sensing functions that enable it to collect field data automatically.
- Building a system for securely storing and making effective use of field data.
- KEY POINTS TO THE SOLUTIONS
- EXROVR, an autonomous inspection robot with explosion-proof performance, high mobility, and availability, can conduct inspections autonomously while the plant is in operation. It replaces inspections by human workers.
- For prevention of unplanned outages at plants, accidents, and disasters, EX ROVR increases the frequency of inspections and utilizes the data collected from these inspections.
- Undertaking routine field work in plants, EX ROVR contributes to human safety and more value-added work.
MHI has developed the EX ROVR, an autonomous inspection robot with explosion-proof performance, high mobility, and availability. The robot is capable of conducting autonomous patrols and inspections during plant operation.
Since 2014, MHI has been developing a remote-controlled, land-based, explosion-proof robot designed for work in a flammable gas atmosphere. Using this technology, MHI has developed the EX ROVR, a remote-controlled explosion-proof robot that conducts inspection of plants.
EX ROVR realizes autonomous patrols and inspections during plant operation.
EX ROVR is being designed to prevent unplanned outages, accidents, and disasters at plants, by increasing the frequency of inspections and optimizing facility maintenance. In the process, inspection data collected by various sensors incorporated in the robot is analyzed to improve plant performance.
It is crucial for companies to avoid unplanned outages due to plant accidents and disasters, which can lead to costly downtime, accident response, and recovery. EX ROVR will contribute to the early detection of abnormalities, particularly for aging facilities that require high-quality and frequent inspections.
In addition, data harvested by sensors and cameras in EX ROVR will be stored and analyzed on a secure platform by integrating them with operational and other data. This will enable quicker recognition and more accurate understanding of the warning signs of abnormalities in equipment, leading to more sophisticated facility maintenance and effective asset management.
By deploying robots at the plant and delegating them to conduct routine on-site work, humans can engage in safer and more value-added work.
By deploying EX ROVR to perform routine inspections, humans can engage in higher value-added tasks – such as management and improvement activities – in a safer location. In addition, the installation of resident robots on offshore platforms and other facilities with less accessibility is expected to reduce OPEX. The division of roles between robots and humans will increase safety and efficiency in facility operations.
MHI aims to improve the asset management efficiency of our clients' entire plant facilities, by utilizing our accumulated technologies and knowledge of unmanned robots on land, sea, and air, as well as various sensing technologies. EX ROVR is one of the most anticipated technologies, not only for automated plant inspection, but for digital transformation solutions for oil and gas plant operations as an automatic collection tool for real-time field data. MHI will work with our partners to increase the value of our clients' businesses, from the development and introduction of robots such as EX ROVR to support for advanced asset management of entire plant facilities.