New technology and digitisation

Driving a transformation in plant asset management
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01 November 2018

Our Commercial Director, Phil Buchan, has been featured in the latest newsletter from Gastech Insights.

He discusses how new technology, specifically developments in drones for inspection, and the digitisation of drone-captured data is transforming how plant and asset management is approached around the world.

Reliable, well-performing assets are crucial to the efficient running of gas and LNG plants, however, as assets begin to age, ensuring integrity becomes an ever-growing, complex challenge. Team this with an industry drive to operate more efficiently and the challenges only increase.

A robust inspection programme with regular proactive monitoring in place means that potential issues can be identified and addressed before failure occurs, ensuring a more pragmatic approach to asset integrity.

Inspection through the lens of a drone: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as drones, allow plant operators to undertake condition monitoring in a far more efficient manner thanks to a range of benefits;

  • Inspections which are up to four times faster
  • Cost savings of up to seven figures through avoiding a shutdown
  • Drastically reduce risk to the safety of personnel.

Cyberhawk Innovations has been using drones to inspect high, hazardous and difficult to reach assets for over a decade. Operating globally, typical general visual and close visual inspections include flares stacks, cooling towers, chimneys, confined spaces (such as the inside of a cargo tank) and structural inspections.

Cyberhawk recently inspected of several elevated vent silencers at the manufacturing facility of a major speciality gas manufacturer. The purpose of the inspection was to identify possible defects/debris through the vents and damage to the support structures.

Rather than use a cherry picker, which could take up to two weeks to complete the project and involve extensive periods working at height, the drone inspection was completed from the ground, in just one day. Detailed engineering reports from Cyberhawk’s inspection engineers followed shortly afterwards.

Another example of drone inspection in action was a confined space inspection of a large water storage tank at a UK gas terminal.

A two-man team, consisting a UAV pilot and inspector, examined the condition of pipe support fittings and the entire internal surface of the storage tank. The full internal inspection was completed using a drone which was flown by the team who remained on the outside of the tank.

The challenges faced included no GPS signal, limited light inside the tank and bad weather outside the tank, all of which meant a high level of precision was required to ensure a successful result. Delivering significant time and cost savings, the work-scope was completed in one day, followed by a detailed inspection report which enabled the client to understand the tank defects.

Creating value from your data: A highly trained drone pilot is able to collect terabytes of detailed visual inspection data, which is a hugely useful tool for asset manager when presented and used correctly.

The development of cloud-based software, designed to host this vast volume of complex inspection data, has created a transformation in asset management. By hosting data in the cloud, this means information can be access and loaded more easily, and better shared with project stakeholders no matter their geographical location. Cyberhawk’s asset management software, iHawk, already has thousands of users across five continents.

The benefits of such software mean plant owners and operators are provided with an at-a-glance view of their entire asset portfolio, with the data subjected to engineering analysis and colour coded according to defect severity. It enables evidence-based decision-making, better maintenance planning and allows the tracking and comparison of defects over time.

As the oil and gas sector enters a new industrial revolution, drones have already proven to be one of the most game-changing technologies contributing to efficiency gains. This will only continue over the coming years.