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NREC Developing Robot for Monitoring Offshore Oil/Gas Facility
July 16, 2010

The Robotics Institute's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and Shell Development Kashagan B.V., (SDK) are developing a human-sized, wheeled robot to perform simple inspection tasks of offshore oil and gas production facilities in the giant Kashagan field of the Caspian Sea.

The SensaBot will be used by the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC) in the Kashagan field now being developed in the Kazakhstani sector of the Caspian Sea. The Kashagan field is a high-pressure oil and gas reservoir with a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas and is located in an environmentally sensitive area with wide-ranging climactic conditions. The robot will be a stepping stone to a family of robots that will perform a variety of tasks and thus reduce human exposure to adverse weather and potentially hazardous working conditions.

“The Kashagan project is pushing the frontiers of technology in the oil and gas industry, and this is another example of how new technology systems can improve safety for the people who are responsible for operating and maintaining the offshore facilities,” said Gregg Cremer, SDK technology manager. “We are very excited about working with NREC on this first phase of robotic applications to oil and gas surface facilities since they have a proven track record of rapid prototyping for a wide range of mobile platform robots.”

SensaBot will be equipped with audio, visual, temperature and gas detection sensors and will be remotely controlled using a wireless network. It also will be able to climb stairs.

“Robotics technology has matured to the point where it can assume many inspection and maintenance tasks that until now required a human to perform,” said Bill Ross, principal commercialization specialist at NREC and principal investigator. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with SDK and NCOC to develop SensaBot as a safer approach to performing these tasks.“

SDK is a wholly owned affiliate of Shell Oil and is responsible for the front-end engineering design and the development and construction of the Kashagan offshore facilities. NCOC represents a consortium of seven companies – KMG, Eni, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and INPEX – that is developing several fields in the North Caspian, including the Kashagan.

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