IoT technology and specialized robots have been put to the test these days at Chevron Oronite’s headquarters in L’Havre, France, to revolutionize the safety and environmental protection of refinery inspection operations

The lack of investments for the renewal of civil infrastructure deteriorated by the passage of time, such as tunnels, viaducts or refineries, requires an increase in the efficiency and quality of inspection and maintenance activities to maintain the necessary safety levels. To respond to this objective, a research project supported by the European Commission, PILOTING, was launched three years ago, formed by a consortium of 13 companies and institutions from Spain, Greece, Switzerland, France, Norway and the Netherlands, and led by the Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies, CATEC. This initiative has been working and developing various robotic, aerial and ground systems, with characteristics and technologies that adapt to each type of infrastructure and its needs in terms of inspection and maintenance tasks.

Within PILOTING, a series of advanced experiments have just been carried out that combine innovative robots and IoT technology in various use cases to revolutionize refinery operations and achieve unprecedented advances in improving safety and efficiency in these inspection and maintenance tasks, also achieving a reduction in costs and time. One of the main milestones of these experiments has been the world’s first autonomous landing of an aerial robot on a refinery pipe to measure the thickness of the walls.

These tests have been carried out at the Chevron Oronite headquarters in L’Havre, France, where project engineers have used specialized robots and IoT (Internet Of Things) technology to make data collection more efficient. The key scenarios and the robots involved according to the different types of inspection have been:
– Inspection of large structures using AeroX, an advanced robot designed and developed by CATEC to provide precision and safety.
– Pipe inspection using CATEC’s HYBRID robot and WTR’s UT Crawler, which allows early detection of possible problems and better maintenance planning.
– Inspection of pressure vessels using WTR’s BIKE robot, improving efficiency and reducing the risks associated with this task.
– Terrain monitoring through ETHz and ROBOTNIK robots, which allows real-time data collection and facilitates efficient space management in refineries.

Additionally, the integration of IoT technology, combined with these robots, has been essential for data collection and analysis.

All these technologies have been integrated into the PILOTING I&M platform to have a complete digital end-to-end inspection solution using robots. In this way, new innovative solutions have been developed that can improve the maintenance of infrastructures, increasing their level of safety, and therefore environmental protection against accidents.

These revolutionary advances configure the European PILOTING project as a model of innovation and sustainability for the refinery industry around the world. The findings and solutions developed within this research framework are expected to form the basis of future commercial products after the completion of the project in late 2023.