Robots are heading towards the offshore energy sector in many shapes and forms.
FREMONT, CA: There could be many benefits that businesses can gain from robotics. But platforms and offshore wind turbine structures are very challenging places to put them on. For oil and gas, vital drivers are around safety and cost. For the offshore wind sector, the massive volume of structures being deployed drives a push for robotic systems to do the inspection, maintenance, and maintenance work safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Read on to know more.
Automated pipe handling systems and robotic roughnecks have been launched to drill floors more recently. In the last few years, aerial drones and magnetic hull crawling robots have become part of the offshore monitoring tool kit, mostly with a human operator. Some initial steps have also been made into topside robotics, from quadrupeds to crawlers, some as solutions for concerns around hydrogen sulfide (H2S), hazardous to humans, and others in response to specific risks. These systems can act faster in response to the gas leak too.
Robotics take workers out of harsh environments and can act more efficiently. They could also help meet net-zero emissions objectives, reducing the requirement for helicopter flights. But offshore facilities are not designed for robotics, and robotics can’t function. Simple things, like climbing stairs, robots can’t. In a production plant, everything is static and controlled. It is seamless to separate moving things from non-moving things and humans from robotics. Everything is linear, and there’s no wind, waves, or currents to get in the way. It is much easier to deploy automation.
The offshore wind's asset base is so massive, and the challenge is also getting to each turbine safely and efficiently. Wind turbine operators stress smart and automated systems that self-diagnose, but inspection will still be required. Another challenge is technology deployment. Technology barriers are the easiest to overcome. Adoption could be more challenging with concerns about jobs or disrupting incumbent markets, such as the logistics and transportation for workers and equipment presently shipped around.