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Engineers at the University of Aberdeen in the UK have developed a new software tool that could significantly reduce the time it takes to create engineering models for oil and gas platform and pipeline repairs.

In collaboration with digital asset management provider GDi, scientists at the university have developed a technology known as Advanced Modeller, which automates the process of turning laser scans of platforms and pipelines into detailed and precise engineering models. These can then be used to plan repairs, maintenance and modifications on energy infrastructure.

The current process for generating 3D models is labour intensive, especially for precision modelling, and it can sometimes take hours to fit a single pipeline to the current Point Cloud, which consists of a massive collection of tiny individual points plotted in 3D space.

Advanced Modeller simplifies this process by allowing operators to click along the pipeline and immediately obtain a precision fitted pipe, turning a process that currently takes hours into just a few minutes, the university said.

Dr Marcus Campbell-Bannerman, a scientist on the project, said: “The oil and gas industry faces significant challenges with ageing infrastructure, volatile oil prices, pressure from the regulator and the shift towards renewable energies.

“It is critical that technological step changes are introduced to enable operators to reduce their maintenance and operation budgets and continue to operate in a cost-effective way. The cost of decommissioning is also largely borne by the taxpayer, so we need to find ways to better plan modifications on ageing assets to ensure this burden can be reduced.

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“These point-cloud data sets provide a huge opportunity to apply artificial intelligence techniques to automate inspection, modification planning and maintenance. The development of Advanced Modeller demonstrates this potential in a way that could provide huge savings for an industry adapting to a fast-changing energy landscape.”