“We truly become the customer’s eyes!”

from pioneering renewables to gas sensing projects Cyberhawk is supporting the energy transition
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06 Jul 2021

This month, our ‘Meet the Team’ series focuses on Cathy Legrand and her role as our Planning Manager and HSEQ lead. Our Marketing Manager, James, recently caught up with her to find out more about Cyberhawk’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices, as well as how our iHawk technology has made a positive impact and supported our customer’s net-zero goals around the world.

James: Which projects have helped our customers reduce their environmental impact have you been involved in since you joined?

Cathy: When it comes to customer projects and the positive environmental impact our drone and visualization software solutions have had, there are so many to mention! Every time we use drones to carry out critical inspections instead of using helicopters, we are helping our customers reduce their carbon emissions.

Currently, we are supporting many customers with this including SP Energy Networks. We are supporting the utility to meet targets to minimize the environmental impact of its inspection activities. As a result of adopting drone-based inspection services, SP Energy Networks has been able to reduce its use of helicopters for visual inspection, which are significant sources of air pollution, and as a result, it has been able to reduce emissions.

We also worked on a pioneering gas sensing project located in Central Asia. Cyberhawk developed a bespoke drone-based solution that would become a world first and supported our customers make significant environmental, health and safety, and efficiency improvements.

The project focused on the challenges associated with open ground flares and burners, which are extensively used in the onshore oil and gas industry to burn large amounts of gas and liquid. Ground flares and burners typically require large exclusions zones due to the flame being located close to ground level.

The accurate prediction of the extent of the exclusion zone was of paramount importance. In the event of a substantial underprediction of the exclusion zone, it could create serious hazards which would pose risk to personnel safety on or offsite.

The customer looked to Cyberhawk’s for a solution to this issue because of our extensive experience of successfully measuring gas concentrations in the harshest of environments through our state-of-the-art drone-based inspection services.

Our bespoke gas sensing solution saw data collected in under five days from 45 drone flights. This provided an accurate and repeatable solution to compile key data, which exceeded on-the-ground equivalents. This provided a more accessible, flexible, cost-effective, and lower-risk strategy for collecting data and determining the exclusion zones across harsh wind and operating conditions on location.

The project team was able to use the SO2 sensor measurements along with the CFD modeling results to reduce the Non-Permitted (Safety) zone down to 500m, a reduction in the area of 82%. This is a huge win and will result in significant cost savings (millions of dollars) and an increase in the efficiency of field operations.

James: And we’ve seen most of our customers really benefit from the use of iHawk, our Cloud-based visualization software, during the pandemic. Can you tell us a little more about the software’s environmentally friendly properties?

Cathy: iHawk allows project teams to access an up-to-date, full visual record of their assets. This allows for detailed information to be shared between asset management and operations teams, senior managers, and contractors. All of this can be done remotely, removing the need for travel to and from the site.

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We have also introduced asset familiarisation where a complete visual record of the asset can be used to monitor the ongoing condition of the asset, to prioritize future inspection and maintenance campaigns. These 3D digital twins mean companies are less reliant on human effort to carry out inspections. This means a reduction in health and safety risks having personnel on-site, but also leads to a significant reduction in carbon emissions as again, the need for flights or car travel is removed.

We truly become the customer’s eyes! They can access a clear picture of project status at any time, as well as any issues or risks that may grow into greater concerns - all from the comfort of their home or office.

Last year, at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic becoming more prevalent,

we worked on an oil and gas project at a shipyard in Thailand. It was critical that they had progress monitoring in place across the whole site. We did regular 360-degree, ariel imagery capture and a drone-based survey once a week. We also managed the integration of different sensors on site so they could view the crane location for example.

There were key stakeholders in Thailand, the UK, and the USA who needed frequent status updates. Through our support, they were able to obtain visual updates every day and could remotely plan activities.

The benefits of this approach for the customer were endless. Firstly, they were able to spot health and safety issues such as equipment being inappropriately stored resulting in a risk to human life and regulatory fines. Secondly, they could flag any discrepancies in the procedures and processes being followed in Thailand compared to the USA, allowing the key stakeholders to assess and agree on standards for the site. And finally, they could effectively manage the different storage areas on-site to ensure they were being efficiently used, allowing them to identify areas where they could utilize space and build new infrastructure.

Another way that Cyberhawk is supporting the energy transition is the inspection of the next generation of wind farms. We’re helping SSE progress with the build of the Viking wind farm for example. When complete, it will be a 103-turbine, 443MW onshore wind farm that will harness the great wind conditions on Shetland, and it’ll produce enough energy to power almost half a million homes.

The project includes;

  • A 132kV Kergord AC substation, which included a platform for both the AC132kV Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) substation and HVDC Converter Station;
  • A 600MW HVDC Converter Station at Kergord will connect to the new Kergord AC Substation. This is a highly specialist type of infrastructure which converts energy from alternating current to direct current so that it can be transported along a 260km subsea and land cable to connect to the UK’s transmission line;
  • A 600MW HVDC land and subsea cable, which once installed will be a combination of land and subsea cables between the HVDC Converter Station at Kergord and an HVDC switching station located at Noss Head. This will consist of 10km of land cables in Shetland, 250km of subsea cables, and 2.5km of land cables at Noss Head;
  • An HVDC switching station will be constructed at Noss Head in Caithness close to where the subsea cables make ground. A world-first outside of China, this will act as a junction point, collecting energy from Shetland and Spittal HVDC circuits and then transporting that energy via subsea and land cables to Blackhillock in Moray to allows the further transmission to areas of demand across the UK;
  • Finally, CM cable tie-ins will be installed which will facilitate the connection of the Shetland link to the existing Caithness Moray circuit by connecting a new 1,2000MW cable from the HVDC switching station at Noss Head to the existing 1,200MW Caithness Moray subsea cable.

When completed in 2024, the 443 megawatts (MW) wind farm will become the UK’s most productive onshore wind farm in terms of annual electricity output.

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To get to the point of completion, there is a great deal of construction is required as you can see, it’s very busy on-site and the stakeholders need a way to monitor this activity. The Cyberhawk team has been going on-site quarterly to support this.

We started the first survey in September 2020. As part of our remit, we are carrying out progress monitoring, which sees us survey the construction site so they have a comparison from quarter to quarter. We also use drones to shoot video footage that they can use to engage local authorities such as the council to communicate progress, and they have been used to promote the project through SSE’s marketing and communication campaigns.

We’re also filming on a live continuous basis so that stakeholders don’t have to rely on a quarterly survey they can see what is going on 24/7.

They use it to compare the progress throughout the year, making sure that they are accountable to project timescales committed to and keeping the project in line with the budget set out at the beginning.