Cyberhawk have been featured in Decom North Sea News, Issue 15, p42, discussing the benefits of ROAV/UAV technology for production and decommissioning operations at oil & gas facilities:
At Oil & Gas production facilities all over the world, maximising uptime and improving safety are matters of paramount importance. Many traditional asset inspection techniques provide valuable information to assess asset conditions but require facilities to be shutdown and expose personnel to the risks of working at height.
A new method of inspecting live and difficult to access assets has been pioneered by Scottish inspection company Cyberhawk Innovations. Cyberhawk provides a service that allows certain inspection tasks to be performed more quickly, safely and cost-effectively than traditional methods. The method combines Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROAVs), highly skilled pilots and engineers to carry out close visual and thermal inspections of live assets that are “at height”, or difficult to access. This innovative approach has become established in the petrochemical industry and Cyberhawk has completed in excess of 5,000 flights at Oil & Gas and LNG facilities across the world – from Northern Europe to the Middle East, and from the South China Sea to the North Sea.
Applications of ROAV technology for decommissioning projects
Against a backdrop of pressing financial and safety issues, Cyberhawk’s technology enables decommissioning to be done as quickly, cost-effectively and safely as possible.
The use of ROAVs in decommissioning enables clients to rapidly collect accurate inspection information that aids decommissioning planning at all stages of the project. As well as validation of the initial work scope, this can include decommissioning progress assessment.
Cyberhawk’s inspection engineers provide comprehensive condition assessment of the structures being inspected, including highlighting any differences between technical drawings and the “as built” condition. This enables decommissioning project leaders to avoid any “surprises” when the project starts. Using ROAVs to capture the progress of each stage of the decommissioning provides valuable data throughout the project life and enables clear and unambiguous communication between the relevant parties, both offshore and on the beach. These benefits are in addition to dramatically reducing overall health and safety risk through a shorter project duration and a safer methodology than traditional approaches such as scaffolding or rope access. The reduction in health and safety risk is especially relevant in decommissioning projects where assets tend to be more aged and in worse conditions.
‘Traditional’ inspection access methods
Traditional methods of accessing assets include rope access and scaffolding. Both approaches involve ‘working at height’ and, in the case of live assets, facilities require to be shut down. Rope access can be time-consuming, both in terms of crew setup and inspection duration. Scaffolding can be an expensive option and may take weeks to erect.
A third inspection technique that is sometimes used to inspect live flares at offshore oil and gas platforms is full-size helicopters. Again there are significant costs involved. A full-size helicopter inspection renders many safety-critical parts of a flare structure ‘uninspectable’. For example, this may include the underside of the flare deck, access ladders and flare boom.
The ROAV inspection method offers operators a safe and comprehensive alternative to traditional approaches and brings a range of benefits.
ROAV technology and applications
The miniature flying vehicles or ROAVs use high-definition video and high-definition still and thermal cameras to provide detailed information for inspection purposes. Cyberhawk’s battery-powered ROAVs weigh less than 2 kg and are less than 1m in length. They can be up in the air in a matter of minutes and results generated from the inspections can be available in hours – as opposed to many days using ‘traditional’ rope or scaffolding access methods.
The ROAVs are operated by a highly trained, two-man crew which comprises a pilot and a qualified inspection engineer. A two-man crew is critical for safe industrial inspection using ROAVs: with the pilot’s attention focused solely on the operation of the ROAV, the inspection engineer is able to concentrate on controlling the camera payload. This ensures that the ROAV team is able to capture Close Visual Inspection (CVI) images and produce a comprehensive and authoritative technical inspection that enables asset owners to make informed engineering decisions. With an experienced and qualified (typically ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and CSWIP (Certification Scheme for Welding and Inspection Personnel) inspection engineer on every assignment and the presentation of an interim report before leaving the site, the customer is able to have a timely, peer-to-peer discussion about the condition of their asset.
Demonstration of measurable cost savings in decommissioning
In 2012, and working with asset management company Stork Technical Services, Cyberhawk carried out a structural and coating inspection of an offshore drilling derrick for Shell U.K Limited on the company’s Brent Delta platform. This was the world’s first inspection on an offshore installation by ROAV and it represented a revolutionary model for future offshore inspections across the globe.
Stork challenged the remaining fabric maintenance scope on the asset as the platform was in planning for decommissioning. Cyberhawk’s ROAV captured HD images and relayed them live allowing for a full assessment of the structure and coating condition of the operational drilling derrick. The inspection involved accessing areas that would have been particularly challenging and time-consuming for traditional rope or scaffold inspections. The inspection was delivered during live drilling operations and there was no requirement for a costly shutdown, which would have cost an estimated £80,000 – £100,000 per day.
The results from the visual inspection allowed Stork to challenge the initial workscope and reduce the quantity of the surface area to be treated by 42%. In addition, the results allowed Stork to introduce a wax oil preservative coating to treat the drill derrick, which delivered with a further saving of 1,725 man hours. The wax oil coating workscope could be delivered in a 14 day period compared with six weeks for conventional paint treatments. This allowed the work to be carried out during a planned pause in drilling, rather than during a lengthy shutdown, giving an overall project saving of £4.6 million which would not have been achieved without the data gathered and engineering expertise supplied by the Stork and Cyberhawk team.
The quantifiable results of this work led to Cyberhawk and Stork Technical Services winning the Business Efficiency category of the Oil and Gas UK Awards 2012.
To boldly go beyond GPS environments…
Work on the drilling derrick on the Brent Delta was followed by a contract to carry out a full dropped objects sweep and underdeck structural inspection on the platform. Once again, the methodology was employed to save time and money. In fact the inspection took a total of four days to complete and covered the entire underdeck, including the concrete legs, transition pieces between the topside structure and the legs, and external caissons.
Cyberhawk’s ROAV is multi-bladed and can be positioned with great accuracy, and its state-of-the-art GPS positioning technology means that the exact image can be accurately repeated (if necessary). Although ROAVs have certain automated features, safely piloting the ROAV in an industrial setting requires a high degree of pilot training and ability. These elements are required to enable them to position the ROAV, accurately and consistently, close to the asset and to ensure that they can respond safely to unexpected events, from a gust of wind to signal interference. Cyberhawk refer to this as the ability to fly in full ‘manual’ mode and this is a cornerstone of its pilot training regime.
Working on the Brent Delta underdeck inspection involved operating in a totally GPS-denied environment, which meant complete reliance on pilot skills in the most challenging conditions. The inspection was carried out by a two-man team that comprised an inspection engineer with 10 years offshore inspection experience and an ROAV pilot with 500+ hours of operating ROAVs in an oil and gas inspection environment. Working from a cradle positioned just below the underdeck, the Cyberhawk team used all their experience to make a full assessment of the asset condition. The ROAV inspection proved to be a highly attractive alternative to an approximately 3 month scaffold workscope or 3 to 4 weeks of rope access work overside.
Cyberhawk’s ROAV inspection method is now becoming established as best practice for inspections of hard-to-reach assets all over the world. Over 200 flares alone have been inspected by Cyberhawk in the UK, mainland Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Like the ROAVs themselves, the compelling proposition of improved safety, operational efficiency and higher quality of engineering data is now reaching more places than ever before.