Roadmap Aims To Accelerate Adoption of Safety-Enhancing Robot Technologies

A tank-inspection robot.

Rapid advances in robotics and information and communications technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way maintenance, inspection, and nondestructive testing within the oil and gas industry is performed. This would make operations safer by reducing exposure of personnel to hazardous environments and is likely to introduce more-reliable inspection and maintenance routines. In addition, introduction of these technologies can provide significant economic benefits for the industry, particularly in mature basin assets with declining production rates, mainly through reduction of plant down time and increased asset life.

Despite these obvious advantages, industry acceptance of these new technologies is likely to be slow. Previous experience with other innovations in the industry has shown that, typically, at least 20 years is required for new methods to be adopted as standard work practices. This is an enormous waste in unharvested economic potential and potentially avoidable injuries or loss of life at a juncture where the industry is under great pressure to improve its safety record and operate more efficiently.

This paper will analyze the causes of slow industry adoption of new robotic technologies and will present a novel approach for significant speed-up of market adoption through end-user-led collaboration across the value chain. This approach currently is put to the test by a new global nonprofit industry platform: The SPRINT Robotics Collaborative, founded in 2015. The SPRINT Robotics Collaborative has produced its first version of a roadmap for introduction of key robotic technologies. The roadmap has been developed from input from the entire value chain active in various areas of the petrochemical industry; as such, their input is representative for this industry.

In short, the robotics roadmap sets dots on the horizon and sketches the way to get to these landmarks. It serves to

  • Align the industry on goals and priorities
  • Share knowledge and insight with potentially contributing parties from the entire value chain
  • Enable innovators, technologists, and researchers to contribute effectively and structurally to the solution of problems relevant to the petrochemical industry
  • Prepare the end users (asset owners) so they can adapt new asset designs and operational procedures for the uptake of the technological advances
  • Inform policy makers about the changing landscape to which they can respond

In the SPRINT Robotics Roadmap, input from the entire value chain is brought together.

In addition to the roadmap, this paper will discuss the achievements and challenges from the first 2 years of operation of the SPRINT Robotics collaborative; providing real-world examples of full value chain collaboration and deployment of robotic technologies.

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