Petrobot project to use robots to inspect petrochemical containers

4 Sep 2013

Robots will replace humans in inspections of pressure vessels and storage tanks used in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry in an effort to reduce the time an inspection requires and ensure inspectors’ safety under the new Petrobot project.

The European Commission and a consortium of 10 European companies, led by Shell, have launched the Petrobot project, which will develop the robots.

An inspection at oil, gas and petrochemical plants requires them to be shut down and vessels have to be decoupled from live sections of the plant (closing a valve is not sufficient) for safety.

Future Human

Vessels are then cleaned to remove products that can emit flammable or toxic gases.  Scaffolding is erected in larger vessels so inspectors can access all areas.

When the inspection is completed – often after a few hours – this work is done in reverse.

Robotic technology can reduce the amount of time it takes to carry out inspections, thus cutting down the amount of time inspectors are exposed to hazardous conditions.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda, said Europe’s “world-leading position” in industrial robotics is no accident.

“The Petrobot project illustrates our will to transfer cutting-edge results from research to the market, opening up new markets for EU businesses and creating new jobs in Europe,” Kroes said.

Petrobot will involve partners from the UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands over three years.

The EU will contribute €3.7m to the €6.2m project.

Robotics image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic