Illustration; Courtesy of MODEC and Terra Drone

Oil & gas drone tech in focus: Japanese pair pool resources for unmanned FPSO inspection

Japan’s MODEC and Terra Drone Corporation, a compatriot drone and urban air mobility (UAM) technology company, have sealed a deal to enhance inspection drones for floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) units to enable unmanned inspection, which will bring down the number of the required workforce for such tasks.

Illustration; Courtesy of MODEC and Terra Drone

Following the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on November 7, 2023, which allowed MODEC to continuously utilize Terra Drone’s drone technology to measure the hull thickness of crude oil storage tanks of FPSOs operating in Brazil, the duo has entered into a joint research and development agreement to deploy advanced drone technology on FPSOs to bolster safety, downsize labor, and fortify efficiency in inspection operations.

While the implementation of drone technology is said to have yielded a safer inspection process by reducing the need for working at height, the two Japanese firms believe that further optimization of drone inspection technology is essential to overcome the harsh working environments on offshore assets. Given the issues with the current execution and efficiency of hull thickness measurements, the inspection tasks conducted by crew members have not yet been fully replaced by drones.

Furthermore, MODEC and Terra Drone are convinced that maintaining asset integrity is crucial to allow FPSOs and other offshore platforms to operate safely for over 20 years. Even though periodic structure inspections are indispensable, the companies point out a constraint that the inspection work needs to be performed in parallel with production operations by a limited number of crew members, thus, curbing manpower has become a shared challenge across the industry.

Source: MODEC and Terra Drone Corporation 

With this at the forefront, the Japanese pair’s goal is to fully replace manual inspections of crude oil storage tanks with drones in the near future by innovating drone inspection techniques to triple inspection efficiency and reduce inspection costs. In addition, they hope to deploy drone inspection technology on MODEC-operated FPSOs and widely throughout the industry.

This is expected to assist in addressing shared industry challenges related to occupational safety and manpower reduction in offshore platform operations. As a result, MODEC and Terra Drone claim they will contribute to the sustainable operation of FPSOs and other offshore platforms from environmental, economic, and social perspectives.

The new deal between the two firms comes several months after the duo tucked the world’s first approval from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) for a drone-based FPSO hull thickness measurement under their belts.

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Recently, MODEC and JGC Corporation finished a project designed to measure and quantify emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases (GHG) from two FPSOs off the coast of Brazil.