Petrobots: droids on a mission to keep humans safe

Who can inspect the floor of a storage tank while it still contains a highly flammable and toxic petroleum product? No person, of course. But “Tank,” a robot, could be up to the challenge.
Tank is part of a new breed of robots being created to work alongside people in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries with the mission to keep us safe. “Petrobots” will soon be doing jobs that are either too risky or impossible for humans to achieve.
Petrobot is a three-year joint-industry research project supported by a grant from the European Commission. Now in its final year, the project is creating robotic tools for the inspection of pressure vessels and storage tanks. Chevron, through its Aberdeen, Scotland-based, Chevron Upstream Europe (CUE) business unit and Global Technology Center (GTC), is among the consortium of 10 companies funding the research. The project mobilizes the complete value chain of robotics, technology and inspection providers and end-users in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

The PETROBOT project aims to develop a series of robots which can be used by inspectors to conduct remote inspection of pressure vessels and storage tanks widely used in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry.
The Petrobot team has developed three offline pressure vessel inspection robots and one online tank robot, used for inspecting tanks that contain product. These are currently going through field trials to test the robots’ capabilities in detecting a range of potential defects such as weld cracks, pitting and wall thinning.