The operation took place over 3 days in october 2016, on board the N’Kossa Floating Concrete Production and Storage barge which produces 35k barrels of oil a day off the coast of the Republic of Congo. Over that period, TOTAL E&P Congo (TEPC), the biggest oil producer in the Republic of Congo, SATF congo, a congolese service companies specialized in added value technologies, ROAV7, the industrial data experts and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or drone) specialists, as well as Bureau Veritas Marine (BV) the renowned classification society performed together a world first in the inspection of the concrete barge.
All started from the desire of TEPC to proceed to the inspection via UAV of the walls of the barge compartment in order to ascertain their health and status. Within this unique 20 years old floating unit, those inspections were usually costly and dangerous, because carried out with the help of scaffoldings or with rope access.
For this operation, ROAV7 and SATF’ staff consisted of one Field Engineer Pilot and one Project Coordinator, with the help of one TEPC inspector specialist and one BV inspector specialist. The equipments used for this operation was dispatched in 6 boxes for no more than 125 kg, without any specific logistical aspects.
Over 10 hours, the specialized UAVs, equipped with shields and projectors flew within the barge compartment. Local positioning inside the compartment, a critical aspect of the operation, was achieved thanks to 5 position beacons built specifically for this type of application.
The main operational challenge in this 14000 cu ft confined was the absolute darkness, the flight inside a closed space, the access through manholes, the magnetic field, the high speed air fan and the heavy dust on the ground.
Thanks to the coordination between TEPC, ROAV7, SATF and BV, the HSE risks were properly evaluated, the compartment well illuminated and ventilated, and the UAVs flight planned within the upmost care for safety and security.
During 2 days, the drones flew within one of the main compartment of the FPSO. They were able to take thousands of pictures and they covered every square meter of the walls, in order to be able to detect defects, corroded points and anomalies. After the team came back onshore, the processing phase of more than 40Go of data started. The resulting orthophotography, computed up to 0.02mm of precision and 0.05 mm of resolution on average was presented to the customer in less than a week.
For Jean Goudiakas, manager of the corrosion-inspection team at TEPC, this solution is attractive from a cost standpoint and from a quality standpoint : “with drones, the team can conduct this kind of operation 5 to 10 times faster than the regular solutions. Thus, the time spent offshore is drastically reduced. The overall results are more thorough and precise because the whole surface of the walls is covered. As a consequence, human errors or missed spots are minimized and HSE risks are definitely diminished”.
In a foreseeable future, the use of the technologies provided by SATF and ROAV7 like walls orthophotographies and 3D models of the FPSO will allow TEPC to detect the most stressed areas, to better locate and understand the anomalies and to figure out their evolution over time. Maintenance can be performed in a timely manner and recommendations from classification societies like BV can be quickly reported.
“The future is wide open for drones” says Justin Tchitembo, regional manager for Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore. “Today, offshore inspections carried on with UAVs are experimental. They are not yet trusted for classification purposes but they are considered as a valued addition to traditional inspection. Thanks to the those experimental campaigns, our marine experts can :
- familiarize themselves with inspections using drones,
- if possible assess the reliability of the collected data compared to the previous inspections carry on with traditional process
- collect infos to facilitate the definition of the classification scheme for the drone services companies”.
Once these experiments are fully satisfactory, which could take some time since the processes need to be validated by the IACS, a specific certification scheme could be drafted and approved by BV for immediate implementation.
Since 1969, TOTAL subsidiary in Congo started multiple production sites for conventional offshore oil. In 1988, with the discovery of the Moho-Bilondo field at 700m depth, the first deep offshore project in Congo was launched. While keeping its involvement in the conventional fields well alive, Total E&P Congo embarks into a new technological challenge with Moho-Nord.
Established in 2007, SATF Congo provides added value services and technological solutions to the Oil & Gas industry in the Republic of Congo. The company is the leader in vehicles and fleet tracking system, CCTV and access control for industrial area.
ROAV7’s vision is to become the leader in industrial data. ROAV7 provides to its customers data acquisition solutions with UAV, data processing services and decision support systems. Born in 2016, ROAV7 expands its footprints with projects in the Oil&Gas producing countries of the Gulf of Guinea.
About Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore
Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore is a founding member of the IACS (International Association of Classification Societies). As a trusted partner for the Offshore industry, BV works continuously on innovative solutions.