Rockwell Automation has partnered with French oil major TotalEnergies to introduce a robot fleet management system to enable autonomous operations on the latter’s offshore platforms.

The long-running project is scheduled to undergo first test on an offshore asset in mid-2023.

The French company has been working with Kalypso, a Rockwell Automation company, and other partners to implement a Robotic Supervision System (RSS).

With the use of Internet of Things technology, the RSS enables operators to supervise and coordinate robots from an onshore control room.

The robots are capable of autonomously performing various tasks, from periodic inspection operation and maintenance tasks to emergency response, which are typically carried out by field operators.

Kalypso director Matt Graves said: “Because of the remote and often harsh environments in which oil and gas companies operate offshore, there is a strategic objective to minimise employee exposure on these platforms.

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By GlobalData

“Over the years, this has been achieved by improving the design and automating equipment, but there are still tasks that need to be performed manually, many of which involve observations by operators.

“For five years, TotalEnergies has been investigating the use of ground robots to undertake some of these manual tasks and the next step was to develop a control system to operate these robots remotely. For that, they turned to Kalypso.”

Kalypso used the Unity Technologies-developed Unity game engine for the RSS to address the challenges of how to integrate the robots with current industrial systems and how to show the data in a user-friendly interface.

This technology combines the capabilities of a digital twin with the portability and synchronisation of a gaming platform, Rockwell said.

TotalEnergies R&D department robotics system architect Grégoire Audouin said: “These tests are important at this stage of the project so that we understand all the operational aspects of using the robots for inspection purposes, anticipating further potential for maintenance and operation.

“The main benefit for the operators is to remotely control these robots and have an immersive view from a central control room. There is huge potential for innovation in our industry.”