Photo: Woodside

Woodside develops ‘cutting-edge’ robotic inspection tool for offshore platforms

Australian energy giant Woodside has joined forces with the industry to design a new offshore inspection system, expanding and exploring new horizons in robotics, in a bid to improve the safety of inspection work for oil and gas platforms and reduce costs.

Woodside revealed on Tuesday that it has collaborated with the industry to create an offshore caisson cleaning and inspection tool (CCAIT system) that allows safe and cost-effective remote inspection of critical equipment on its offshore platforms.

Daniel Kalms, Woodside Executive Vice President Technical Services, remarked: “The CCAIT system removes the costs of mobilising tools from international locations, including the cost of delay in fractured supply chains. These can represent up to 50 per cent of the total cost of an inspection campaign.”

The CCAIT system was designed, developed, and deployed in less than 12 months via a collaboration led by Woodside and incorporating Perth-based expertise from Nexxis, Monadelphous, WOMA, and Fugro.

“It was incredible to see the team, including Woodside graduate robotics engineers, write software to dramatically improve the performance and usability of the tool. The project team was made up of people from local companies who came together and designed, procured, fabricated, tested, and validated a robotic solution during the height of a pandemic in under a year,” added Kalms.

Representatives from Monadelphous, Fugro, Woodside and Nexxis; Source: Woodside
Representatives from Monadelphous, Fugro, Woodside and Nexxis; Source: Woodside

The Australian giant informed that this system incorporates a human-sized robot, designed to inspect the inside of caissons – vertical carbon steel pipes up to 70 metres long and up to 1.2 metres wide – which are used on offshore platforms to house critical equipment such as firewater and seawater lift pumps.

Chris Heron, a coatings subject matter expert from Woodside’s maintenance partner Monadelphous, commented: “Building a bespoke Ultra High-Pressure cleaning solution that can quickly remove marine growth to allow inspection without damaging the protective coatings was challenging and rewarding. We drew from our local supplier expertise and relationships to test the latest technology onshore and successfully lead the offshore deployment.”

The collaboration arose in response to possible COVID-related supply chain risks and the CCAIT system is remotely controlled from a safe location on an offshore platform by technicians.

Jason de Silveira, Nexxis Technology CEO said Woodside’s decision to partner with a local company demonstrated “the strong sovereign capability of Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector to develop and deploy cutting-edge robotic technology.”

Woodside explains that the tool is lowered inside the caisson via a tether and winch arrangement and once this is done, wheels are extended to centralise the tool within the caisson and probe arms extend to enable ultrasound inspection. The company further elaborated that a series of high-definition cameras stream video back to the technicians, with the data used by the asset team to define the forward plan.

“This collaboration highlights local capability and supports small to medium enterprises, creating jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector and pushing the frontier of robotics globally,” concluded de Silveira.

When it comes to Woodside’s recent developments, it is worth noting that the Australian energy player completed the merger with BHP’s oil and gas portfolio earlier this month.

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According to Woodside, this merger created the largest energy company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and established a top 10 global independent energy firm.

The use of robotics is growing in the offshore industry and robots are seen as a good solution to improve the safety of offshore inspection work. To this end, Japan’s Yokogawa Electric Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) were selected last month to undertake an AI-enabled robot system project to enable autonomous operations on offshore oil and gas platforms.