The Oil & Gas Technology Centre is set to trial an autonomous robot on French energy company Total E&P’s onshore Shetland Gas Plant before being used on its offshore Alwyn platform.

It is hoped that the robot, which will be used for autonomous operational inspections, will improve safety, enhance productivity and reduce costs.

The project sees Austrian robot specialist taurob and Germany’s Technische University join The Oil & Gas Technology Centre and Total E&P in a partnership to use an autonomous ground robot for the first time on an operational oil and gas installation.

“We are on the cusp of delivering technology that will improve safety, reduce costs and even prolong the life of North Sea operations,” said Total E&P UK head of technology & innovation Dave Mackinnon. “Robots represent an exciting new paradigm for the oil and gas offshore industry and Total is proud to be part of it.”

The trial is a result of Total’s Autonomous Robots for Gas and Oil Sites (ARGOS) challenge, which was launched in 2017 with the aim of developing an autonomous robot that can perform routine tasks and respond to challenges in an oil and gas operational environment.

“After winning the ARGOS Challenge we are excited to enter the industrialisation phase together with Total and the Oil & Gas Technology Centre,” said taurob managing director Matthias Biegl.

“During the next 18 months our ATEX certified and autonomous robot will be further enhanced to be eventually deployed on an offshore platform in the North Sea”

Under the pilot scheme, the robot will initially be deployed at Total’s Shetland gas plant before being sent to join the 120 workers on the company’s Alwyn platform.

The robot is certified to work in gas environments without risk of ignition and can perform visual inspections, read dials, level gauges and valve positions, navigate through narrow pathways and up and down stairs, measure temperature and gas concentration, and detect and navigate around obstacles and humans.

During the 18-month project the partnership will develop a further two versions of the successful ARGOS robot that are more robust and reliable, have improved functionality and can be operated by workers offshore without the requirement for onsite robotics experts.

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre’s asset integrity solution centre manager Rebecca Allison said: “Robotics has the potential to transform the offshore oil and gas industry. We have countless repetitive, dirty and potentially dangerous tasks carried out every day.

“Integrating robots for these tasks will help upskill our workforce and improve the quality of the jobs. Projects like this will help inspire and attract the next generation oil and gas workforce.”