Total, Equinor Developing Offshore Robots

(Photo: OGTC)
(Photo: OGTC)

Industry partners working to develop robots for use on offshore oil and gas platforms say they will advance the technology toward real world testing.

The OGRIP (Offshore Ground Robotics Industrial Pilot) robot, designed to be used primarily as a surveillance vehicle, was unveiled last month in Aberdeen, UK, at SPE Offshore Europe by the Oil & Gas Technology Center (OGTC), technology developer Taurob, and industry partner Total E&P.

The partners have since announced that Equinor and Saft will join the joint industry project team, and that the next stage of the program will develop the world’s first Offshore Work Class Robot (OWCR), which will advance the OGRIP prototype.

The OWCR has an improved chassis, enhancing the overall performance of ground robotics through the addition of active manipulation, to complement its current capabilities of surveying, inspection and observation.

Andy Bell, Asset Integrity Solution Center Project Manager, said, “Total E&P and Equinor’s commitment to robots within site operations validates the development and competency around use case specification. These collaborations with Taurob and Saft, allows the industry to pioneer developments in robotics and position the UKCS at the heart of innovation.”

Jean-Michel Munoz, R&D Next Generation Facilities Project Manager – Deep Offshore Program from Total E&P, said, “Exploration and production operations are conducted in increasingly harsh and challenging conditions, including extreme cold, arid climates and isolated locations. This project is key to Total’s forward-thinking approach, making operations safer by reducing the exposure of personnel to potentially high-risk situations and the immense challenges our teams face – paving the way for tomorrow’s simpler, streamlined and less expensive facilities that will require less annual maintenance. Routine inspection tasks will be automated and performed by the robot, leaving the operator free to concentrate on complex tasks that robots are yet able to perform.”

Joining the project team, Stine Vatneberg, Leader of Automation Technology for R&D within Equinor, added, “Equinor recently awarded the first contract on use of wireless, autonomous underwater drones in the oil and gas industry. We look forward to test and deploy the world’s first autonomous grounded robot in collaboration with key partners.

“Maximizing the robot’s operational time in an ATEX environment requires a high capacity battery with the ability to fast charge. The project scope will break new ground by introducing a fully ATEX-certified lithium-ion battery, increasing operational usefulness, extend performance and will unlock many new applications.”

Matthias Biegl, Managing Director for Taurob, said, “For us, OGRIP was really the start towards fielding reliable ground robots in the oil and gas industry. These robots will perform countless missions and duration tests on different sites, and we will increase their capabilities to work on unmanned installations within the recently started joint industry project.

“Together with Total E&P, Equinor, Saft and the OGTC, we will completely redesign robots to fulfill the needs of solo missions and a high level of complexity regarding manipulation and safety. In parallel, we have started to set up an integrated robotics production and support service to facilitate worldwide rollout of robots together with our partner, Dietsmann.”

Key stakeholder in the project, Paul Gallot-Lavallée, General Manager of Saft France, Space & Defense Division, commented, “With the requirement to grant the robot autonomy and time to operate in the most severe conditions, Saft is developing the first ATEX/IECEx lithium-ion battery in the energy range 500 to 1000 Wh. We use individual Saft MP176065 ise cells (made in Poitiers, France) that can operate in severe environmental conditions, including a wide temperature range from -30°C to +60°C.

“Our cells are arranged in a modular architecture that allows the robot manufacturer to adapt the sizing to the stringent needs of oil and gas platforms. Moreover, the largely improved charging rate and cycling lifetime compared to traditional batteries will allow for a continuous and smooth operation of the robot; the battery will be maintenance free for a full year.”

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