Shell recently announced the launch of the first resident mobile robot that has been certified to work in hostile environments. The Sensabot – developed by leading robotic experts from across the world – will work in remote or unmanned oil and gas facilities, following final tests at Shell’s Pernis complex in the Netherlands. The first robot will be deployed at the Kashagan oilfield in Kazakhstan’s zone of the Caspian Sea, before the system is rolled out across other facilities in harsh environments, as well as in refineries and LNG terminals.
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The semi-autonomous robot is remotely controlled by operators working in a safe location. It is equipped with an array of sensors and video cameras that allow it to act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of operators, enabling them to check equipment and respond to alerts quickly, while gathering real time data. The robot, which is designed to work for six months without requiring maintenance, is able to drive through rough terrain including gravel, mud and snow, as well as climb vertical surfaces using rails on the outside of process modules. In Shell’s own words, the robot “can go anywhere humans can, but without needing additional protection.” Aside from its obvious safety benefits, the Sensabot offers economic advantages and helps to improve productivity. The robot has initially been equipped for surveillance of oil and gas facilities, but has a number of different manipulator arms that can be adapted for use by emergency services or for maintenance purposes. Shell is also seeking commercial partners to help expand the technology.
Robotics is an example of an innovative digital technology that is helping to transform the oil and gas industry, alongside advanced analytics, cloud computing, simulation and unmanned aerial systems (aka drones), etc. Recent research from McKinsey & Co. suggests that the effective use of digital technologies in the oil and gas sector has the potential to cut CAPEX by up to 20%, while also reducing operating costs.1 The global management consulting firm predicts that the latest technological advancements will trigger a second digital age that could also significantly increase productivity and performance: “The visibility and clarity delivered by digital technologies and advanced analytics can give executives unprecedented, granular views into operations, increase agility, and support better strategic decision making. Digital enablers, from process digitisation to robotics and automation, can also help realise this potential by supporting processes in dynamic ways.”
This issue of LNG Industry includes a number of articles that outline the benefits of embracing digital technologies. Intergraph Process, Power & Marine (p. 34) discusses the numerous ways that engineering software can help LNG operators, pointing to its work on several projects including Santos’ GLNG facility in Queensland, Australia. Quorum Business Solutions (p. 39) explains how commercial software is capable of automating operations at bi-directional LNG facilities, and Lanner (p. 43) looks at predictive simulation as a strategy for helping to manage market uncertainty.
On the topic of digital advancements, LNG Industry is pleased to announce the launch of our new-look website. Please visit www.lngindustry.com to take a look at some of the exclusive new features on offer to members and subscribers. And, if you haven’t already, download our free App to read the latest issues of LNG Industry on your mobile or tablet device (simply search for ‘LNG Industry’ in the App Store or Google Play).
1. CHOUDHRY, H., MOHAMMAD, A., TEE TAN, K., and WARD, R., ‘The next frontier for digital technologies in oil and gas’, McKinsey & Company, (August 2016).