Robotics has the potential to transform the way operations in the Oil & Gas (O&G) industry are performed in the future. The launch of an international robotics competition called the ARGOS (Autonomous Robot for Gas and Oil Sites) challenge, based on a selective contest between world class robotics consortiums is a bold way of pushing the emergence of technological solutions. In return the robotics community will become more aware of the specificities and safety requirements of the O&G industry. Having various teams competing allows different designs to be tested, fostering strong innovation and collaboration between individual consortiums.

Surface robotics presents two potential major impacts:

  1. Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) (reduction of risk to personnel, environment and installation)

    • In emergency situations: be deployed much sooner than a human to interrogate sources of leak from remote locations, therefore reducing or eliminating human intervention

    • In high risk areas: faster detection of leaks leading to a minimization of exposure to operators.

  2. Operational (cost reduction, efficiency increase and production)

    • In harsh and hostile environments: ability to perform tasks where operators have limited capacity to intervene

    • In difficult access locations: primary investigation without human presence could lead to gains in availability, time savings, and transport resources.

During a series of three competitions, teams will be evaluated through the capacity of their robot to move around a human engineered competition site, representative of a typical onshore/offshore production facility, performing reporting tasks in different scenarios (routine inspection and emergency) using different autonomy levels. The technical solutions will be adapted to O&G industry specific safety requirements on practical grounds: mobility on production sites and potentially explosive atmospheres.

Due to the nature of the O&G Industry and geographical locations, constraints are forced upon production installations such as tough atmospheric and stringent operating conditions. O&G operators have only recently begun researching surface robotics including the SENSABOT application, (NREC/CMU, 2012), a mobile inspection robot developed by Carnegie Mellon University. Building upon research already carried out and technology already developed, the ARGOS challenge aims to expand on this to create the next generation of autonomous robots for the O&G industry.

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