MADRID, Spain – Repsol is considering the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for inspection of its offshore platforms and as repeaters to transmit data during exploration campaigns.
The company has completed its first trial with an unmanned aircraft for inspection of a flare at its Sines complex in Portugal, the aim being to obtain high-resolution images and evaluate the state of structures more than 100 m (328 ft) tall. Repsol is evaluating use of the drones to avoid risks to workers and save costs during planned maintenance shutdowns.
Its Information Technology Team is researching the offshore applications for the UAVs, which the company says will feature increasingly in oil and gas field activity. Airborne robots, it claims, can make it easier to map potential fields, detect leaks, and oversee infrastructure.
UAVs can be equipped with gas sensors, thermal imaging cameras or HD video equipment, and can automatically process information, recognizing patterns and unforeseen incidents.
Drones are cheaper than helicopters or light aircraft for mapping the seabed and other hard to reach locations. Researchers from the CIPR (Centre for Integrated Petroleum Research) of the University of Bergen in Norway are already using unmanned aerial vehicles carrying laser scanners to create 3D maps of the terrain, providing valuable information for exploration of new fields, Repsol says.
Another area of development is the combined use of drones and autonomous underwater vehicles. Spain’s Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (UPTC) is leading the European project Urready4Os (Underwater Robotics ready for Oil Spills), to create a fleet of drones and underwater vehicles to increase the safety of installations.