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Inspection of vertical structures in oil and gas industry: A review of current scenario and future trends

Abstract

Regular inspection of an oil and gas installations is vital for production, maintenance, safety and environmental impact assessment. Integrating technologies from the field of robotics, sensing and process control will be a decisive step on digitalization of oil and gas industry. Drone technology, artificial intelligence, wearable technologies etc. are some of the emerging digital topics that can help the oil and gas companies to reduce the operation costs, improve the efficiency by making quick decisions and increasing workforce productivity. Inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) operations are always considered as a serious task in oil and gas industries due to its complex set-up and hazardous operation environment.

The conventional methods for performing inspections of storage tanks, cooling tower, chimneys, flare stacks, boiler etc., are performed by using scaffolds, rope access inspection and helicopter. The challenges faced by conventional techniques are the construction of scaffolding, sending inspector into dangerous and fatal environments, shutdown of plant operations etc. that has financial burden on operating cost.

The drone technology provides a possible solution for these challenges by increasing the efficiency, reducing the risks and lowering the cost of IMR tasks. Currently, a certified pilot and an inspection engineer are required to conduct Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) based inspection tasks. The research focus in this field is to automate the UAV flight and being able to extend the inspection capabilities. Autonomous navigation and inspection method of vertical structures using an UAV can be used for both onshore and offshore oil and gas industries without interrupting the plant operation and exposing the work personnel to risky environment. This paper presents the state of art of current scenario and future trends of vertical structure inspection in oil and gas industry.