A partnership between Rockwell and TotalEnergies will make use of IoT, gamification and digital twin technologies to drive autonomous operations for offshore platforms.
Rockwell Automation, which develops industrial automation and digital transformation tech, announced the partnership with energy giant TotalEnergies to implement a robot fleet management system, aiming to implement autonomous operations for its offshore platforms.
The long-running project will reach a significant milestone with its first test on an offshore asset scheduled for mid-2023.
The partners state the importance of robotic and autonomous operations for their operations, as well as for wind offshore projects, in enabling unmanned operations for long periods, reducing employee exposure to hazardous situations, increasing safety, attracting young talent interested in new technologies and further reducing CAPEX and OPEX.
“Because of the remote and often harsh environments in which oil and gas companies operate offshore, there is a strategic objective to minimise employee exposure on these platforms,” said Matt Graves, director at Kalypso, a Rockwell Automation company.
“Over the years, this has been achieved by improving the design and automating equipment. But there are still tasks that need to be performed manually, many of which involve observations by operators. For five years, TotalEnergies has been investigating the use of ground robots to undertake some of these manual tasks and the next step was to develop a control system to operate these robots remotely. For that, they turned to Kalypso.”
Gamifying automated operations
TotalEnergies has been working with Kalypso, a digital transformation-focused firm, and other partners to implement a Robotic Supervision System (RSS), aiming to allow operators located in an onshore control room to remotely supervise and coordinate the robots using IoT tech.
These robots autonomously perform the various activities that field operators are executing on conventional facilities: from periodic inspection operations and maintenance tasks to emergency response.
Challenged with how to interface the robots with existing industrial systems and how to represent the data in a user-friendly interface, Kalypso employed the Unity game engine, from Unity Technologies.
According to Kalypso, this real-time development platform and ecosystem forms the backbone of many of today’s top video games. In recent years, industry has adopted it to create interactive digital content from 3D data and deploy it to various platforms, such as mobile devices, computers and AR and VR devices. This solution combines the functionality of a digital twin and the mobility and synchronisation of a gaming platform.
The resulting RSS concentrates the information provided by several different types of robots and consolidates the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) displays necessary for the remote operators to work efficiently and effectively.
“These tests are important at this stage of the project so that we understand all the operational aspects of using the robots for inspection purposes, anticipating further potential for maintenance and operation,” Grégoire Audouin, R&D department robotics system architect at TotalEnergies, said.
“The main benefit for the operators is to remotely control these robots and have an immersive view from a central control room. There is huge potential for innovation in our industry.”