Offshore Work Class Robot
(The Next Generation of Robots)
The Offshore Work Class Robot is a completely new robot in development (based on the OGRIP chassis) which is able to perform autonomous manipulation operations. Due to the next generation battery, it will be able to operate for extended periods of time (up to 4 hours of operation and 4 hours charging). It will be robust and reliable and maintenance of the robot is anticipated at intervals of up to once per year. This means that this robot is ideally suited to Normally Unmanned Installations (NUI) where human intervention is rare. Of course, the robot will be ATEX and IECEx certified. As a ‘Work Class’ robot it will physically interact with the installation. First tests will be performed in 2021.
A Joint Industry Project was formed with Total, Equinor, Saft and the OGTC. The intent was to develop a robot that had manipulation capabilities. To start with, use cases such as operating valves and launching pig have been identified as potential areas where the robot could add efficiencies. This robot would complement the Taurob Inspectors’ current capabilities of surveying and inspection which would place Taurob in a prime position to provide robotic solutions for inspection AND maintenance for remote installations.
Some of the features planned for this generation of robots:
- The robot can move autonomously around an industrial site without any human supervision (Level 4 Autonomy).
- The robot is certified to fulfil safety requirements, as required by the Machinery Directive.
- The robot has universal interfaces for mission-dependent attachments, such as gas sensors.
- The robot has a new multi-purpose sensor head that enables it to capture high-definition video and audio.
- The robot has light duty and heavy duty arms that are interchangeable.
“Total and Equinor’s commitment to robots in 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 UK Continental Shelf at the heart of innovation.”
“Equinor recently awarded the first contract on the use of wireless, autonomous underwater drones in the oil and gas industry. We look forward to test and deploy the world’s first autonomous ground robot in collaboration with our key partners.”
“E&P 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 paving the way for simpler, streamlined and less expensive facilities requiring less annual maintenance. Routine inspection tasks will be automated and performed by robots, while the operator may concentrate on complex tasks that robots are not yet capable of.”
“Maximising 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 unlocking many new applications.”
With the requirement to grant the robot autonomy and time to operate in the most severe conditions, the French Battery manufacturer Saft Batteries S.A. adds to the powerful consortium as a subcontractor. Saft is developing the first ATEX/IECEx lithium-ion battery in the energy range 500 to 1000 Wh. Special SAFT cells will be used that can operate in severe environmental conditions, including a wide temperature range from -30°C to +60°C.
Moreover, a 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.