The UK Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) has announced a number of advances in its robotics development programme to advance its Offshore Ground Robotics Industrial Pilot (OGRIP) prototype into the world’s first Offshore Work Class Robot (OWCR).

The project team, which includes Austrian technology developer Taurob and French oil and gas company Total, recently added Norwegian energy multinational Equinor and French battery company Saft to the project.

The OWCR improves upon the OGRIP through an enhanced chassis with active manipulation tools, complementing the prototype’s current surveillance, observation and inspection capabilities.

OGTC communications lead Ria Brown told Offshore Technology: “The first generation of the robot, OGRIP, was able to survey, inspect and observe. The difference with the OWCR robot is that in addition to those functions, it will also be able to actively manipulate. Its heavy-duty arm could be strong enough to turn valves, connect hoses, lift objects or push buttons. This is a world first.

“In addition to this, the addition of Saft to the project team is ground-breaking in terms of the battery used. It will be ATEX certified, which allows it to be used in the most hazardous conditions, as well as improved charging and cycling lifetime. The battery will be maintenance-free for a full year.”

As part of the project, Saft is developing the first ATEX and IECEX-certified lithium-ion battery in the 500-100 watt-hour range. The battery can operate in temperatures from -30°C to 60°C and has a modular arrangement to allow manufacturers to adapt the robot’s sizing to the needs of oil and gas platforms.

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The OGRIP was first deployed in trials in April 2018, working on Total’s onshore Shetland gas plant before being relocated to the offshore Alwyn platform. The robot was initially developed as part of the Total-funded ARGOS Challenge in 2013, in an effort to develop the first autonomous surface robot for the oil and gas industry.

Total Deep Offshore Programme project manager Jean-Michel Munoz said: “Exploration and production operations are conducted in increasingly harsh and challenging conditions, including extreme cold, arid climates and isolated locations.

“This project is key to Total’s forward-thinking approach, making operations safer by reducing the exposure of personnel to potentially high-risk situations and the immense challenges our teams face – paving the way for tomorrow’s simpler, streamlined and less expensive facilities that will require less annual maintenance.

“Routine inspection tasks will be automated and performed by the robot, leaving the operator free to concentrate on complex tasks that robots are yet able to perform.”

Taurob managing director Matthias Biegl said: “For us, OGRIP was really the start towards fielding reliable ground robots in the oil and gas industry. These robots will perform countless missions and duration tests on different sites, and we will increase their capabilities to work on unmanned installations within the recently started joint industry project.

“Together with Total E&P, Equinor, Saft and the OGTC, we will completely redesign robots to fulfil the needs of solo missions and a high level of complexity regarding manipulation and safety.”