Oil and gas facilities are tough environments, with often extreme weather conditions and all kinds of obstacles, such as stairs and narrow passageways. To ensure safe and optimally efficient operations on these sites, TotalEnergies chooses its tools based on a number of strict requirements.
But what would it take to develop a remote-controlled robot suited to the challenging conditions at operation and production facilities? To answer this question, the R&D teams opened a call for projects from 2014 to 2017 dubbed the Autonomous Robot for Gas and Oil Sites (ARGOS) Challenge, attracting entries from 31 teams from around the world.
The aim was to create a game-changer for safety at the Company’s oil and gas production facilities. With the help of the French National Research Agency (ANR), five projects were ultimately shortlisted.
One of the project teams, a partnership between Austrian start-up Taurob and the University of Damstadt in Germany, developed the first prototype for an autonomous surveillance robot, named ARGONAUTS.
In this way, the industry-first call for projects was able to demonstrate the feasibility of an autonomous surface robot certified to the ATEX explosive atmospheres standard and capable of operating on our sites, in just three years.
Following the ARGOS Challenge, Taurob continued to develop the winning prototype through to commercial scale-up with support from the OGTC in Aberdeen, Scotland, as part of the Offshore Ground Robotics Industrial Pilot (OGRIP) project.
OGRIP: The First Generation of Surveillance and Inspection Robots on the Market
2020 marked the end of the development phase of the OGRIP robot, a world first that exemplifies the benefits of applying robotics to offshore production facilities.
The OGRIP robot can undertake rounds autonomously, detect anomalies, alert operators, monitor process parameters and generate 3D maps. And because it runs on tracks, it can maneuver on all types of surfaces found in facilities, and even go up and down stairs. In short, the robot has proven its ability to operate safely in challenging environmental conditions.
By using robots on our sites, our number one objective is to improve the safety of our people and avoid exposing them to potentially hazardous conditions. If a problem arises, we can use the robot to immediately appraise the situation and quickly find the right solution.
As part of a long-term test, two robots have been deployed at a Shetland Island gas dehydration unit for one year so that we can accurately assess their robustness, endurance and reliability in a difficult operating environment. At the same time, several other robots are being tested regularly on offshore platforms in various countries. The aim is to make any improvements needed for large-scale rollout across our facilities worldwide from 2022, and to plan future robot-assisted operations.