Robot to transform safety in the petrochemical industry

Safety in the petrochemical industry
© iStock/pichitstocker

Researchers have introduced the first ever Friction Stir Welding Robotic Crawler for the internal repair of pipelines, increasing the safety of those in the petrochemical industry.

The development of the first ever FSWBot, Friction Stir Welding Robotic Crawler for internal repair and restoration of pipelines, is designed to revolutionise the way industries deal with pipeline issues.

After being showcased in Aberdeen in November, the FSWBot project has been attracting attention from around the globe.

Peter Routledge, Forth Engineering Project Manager, said: “We are getting a lot of interest and inquiries about the FSWBot from across the globe. Interest is really building, including from Saudi Arabia, America, Canada, France and Spain.”

The technology will feature in a presentation at a Transformative Robotics for Industries day at the 4th Annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) UK and Ireland Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) Chapter Conference held at the University of Manchester on January 22.

An FSWBot presentation will also take place at an Offshore Pipeline Technology Conference in Amsterdam in February 2020.

And it will also be displayed at Friction Stir Welding International Symposium in Kyoto, Japan in May.

The project, supported by Innovate UK, seeks to integrate several state-of-the-art technologies including friction stir welding, milling, patch deployment and ultrasonic NDT, onto a robotic system which can be deployed to conduct repairs on pipelines without the need for the pipeline to be closed down for the duration of the restoration.

Forth Engineering is working with consortium members TWI, J4IC, Innvotek and LSBU on the project which will have a major positive impact on safety within the industry.

Friction stir welding is a solid-state welding process which generates enough frictional heat to soften or plasticise the metal without melting it, allowing metal components to be forged together at the joint line.

This system will determine if a patch weld can be made in steel pipe under oil, and that a representative FSW system can be made small enough to operate in a 36-inch diameter export pipe.

Mark Telford, managing director of Forth, said: “As a company we have developed a worldwide reputation for developing a range of robotic solutions for use in harsh environments.

“The tools we have developed over the years have been for, and used by, Sellafield, to successfully solve challenges in the nuclear industry. So, our technology is tried and tested in harsh environments.

“There’s a fantastic opportunity for other businesses and organisations in the UK and across the world, whether that’s other nuclear operations, or oil and gas, renewables, and perhaps areas we haven’t even thought of, to make use of that technology, and to share their challenges so we can develop the FSWBot in ways to help them.”

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