A swarm of tiny coordinated autonomous self powered nanobots operate from deep inside the reservoir to the topside process providing in-process sensing and actuation capability. With a sudden reduction of reservoir pressure, they move in to assess the situation and provide a detailed real-time picture of the reservoir with a clarity not seen before. Later they are called upon to remove fouling from the outlet of the separator and to carry out an in-process analysis.

Science fiction or science fact?

This may seem unconventional and a long way off by today's technology, but the first steps are already being taken with the basic building blocks coming out of the lab and being tested in real environments at oil and gas installations. Such steps require vision, a great leap of faith and close cooperation to realize innovation.

One such building block is to perform inspection and intervention of the process infrastructure from a remote and safe location to protect the operational and maintenance staff from hazardous environments and high-risk applications adapting off-the-shelf technology in order to show the feasibility of the concept. Further, the ability to continuously monitor the ‘health’ of the process equipment leading to preventive actions upon necessity results in more efficient operation of (exploration and) production facilities.

A robotics-based prototype system demonstrates inspection and intervention with an oil and gas process module while it is remotely operated. The level of operation varies from remote manual control implying that the operational and maintenance staff teleoperates the process with full control and access when needed, to fully autonomous, i.e. the system acts as an autonomous unit performing inspection, analysis and decision making, and taking actions.

The fact is that the first step is already taken making the technology ready for deployment today and showing the opportunities for the future.

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