AUTOMATED SUBSEA INSPECTION

BACKGROUND

Major oil companies are developing new offshore oilfields at an increasing rate. Deepwater offshore oil fields are now an economically viable oil supply option; there is currently a substantial undeveloped deep-water fields’ backlog. Despite the fluctuation in the price of oil, the demand for floating rigs has steadily increased in the past decade. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident and the pending new regulatory changes will add higher safety requirements coupled with information sharing to the drilling companies.

PROBLEM

Flexible subsea pipes are used for carrying oil from the deep sea to the offshore platforms and to the floating production, storage, & offloading vessels (FPSOs). When in service, the flexible subsea pipes are expected to operate for the life of the oil field that may be up to 30 years. There is currently (2009) no method of examining, in situ, the underwater risers and flowlines. Subsea radiography has been recognized as the only inspection method that can provide the type of information required to detect the defects, however, there are no mechanized means for deploying such inspection equipment deep-water.

OUR SOLUTION

A subsea robotic crawler was designed and engineered to deploy the radiographic equipment. It moves along and around the riser using an inch-worm type motion. The robotic crawler employs four under-actuated end effectors that act in pairs and allow the robot to securely attach itself on the subsea pipes. Designing the appropriate end effectors to be used by the robotic crawler was challenging. Inspired by the designing principles found in prosthetic hands, we ended up developing a shape adaptive gripper allowing the robot to fully adapt to the curved subsea pipes. The developed end-effectors can operate in both open- and closed-loop control schemes. An ROV can also be used to deploy the robot on the subsea pipes.

SKILL SET

Dynamic Modelling and Simulations / Mechanisms Design and Analysis / Sealing Design / Hydraulics / Materials Selection / 3D CAD Design / System Integration / Testing & System Upgrade.

ROBOTIC UNDERWATER TRENCHER

BACKGROUND

With 23 out of the 25 largest offshore wind farms in the world, Europe is at the forefront of wind and tidal energy generation. High voltage (HV) cables are a key infrastructural component for the offshore energy grid; they interconnect power sources and link them with the mainland. An estimated 32,000 km HV submarine power cable will be required in the following years in order to meet Europe’s demand alone.

PROBLEM

Current practice is to lay the HV cables on top of the seabed without burial or protection. Leaving the HV cables exposed to tidal forces, abrasion against rocks, snagging from fishing nets, and damage from dropped anchors. With cables repair vessels costing up to €100K per day and with 80% cable industry related insurance claims, the prospect of multiple cable failures will have massive cost and consistency implications for the offshore industry networks.

OUR SOLUTION

Existing excavation machines use 'track' locomotion, however this approach was developed for machines to operate on soft and unstable ground. Tracked trenching machines do not perform well on hard rock, uneven terrain, or in high currents. Refitting excavation machines with a modular legged locomotion system became Innora's novel solution. The Hexapod will enable the current trenching machines to move in all directions; to turn on the spot in any direction (forward, backwards, sideways, diagonally). Such freedom of movement is critical especially around the wind turbine's bases. The intelligent system adapts to the terrain and keeps the trench 'cutting tool' stable at all times. It responds to sensor input and distributes its weight evenly over the ground since the Hexapod can find a base of support for each of its six legs. The result is extraordinary stability coupled with optimal weight distribution. Depending on terrain morphology, the machine operator can adjust both the ground clearance of the Hexapod and the height of each step. Exact step positioning and spot contact with the seabed enables the machine to overcome obstacles.

SKILL SET

Functional specifications / concept creation / multi-body dynamics / simulation software / prototype design / decision making algorithms / control system / system software / CAD design / working prototype construction / testing.

AUTOMATED WIND TURBINE BLADE INSPECTION

BACKGROUND

In 2014 wind power was the world’s fastest growing energy source. With a record-setting 44% year-on-year growth and wind turbine installations crossing the 50 GW mark, wind power is the leading renewable source for electricity generation. Wind covers a little over 10% of EU’s electricity needs, and has the capacity to power over 73 million households. The upward trend is set to continue and by 2019 it is projected that 483,500 wind turbines will be in service.

PROBLEM

With an estimated 804,000 blades spinning 24/7, it comes as no surprise that failure rates are an ever-present facet of the industry. Sudden gusts of wind, lightning, and ice contribute to blade wear and ultimately lead to more than 4,000 p.a. blade failure incidents. With the going costs per failure at $1 million, there is a clear incentive to ensure that such incidents are kept to a minimum.

OUR SOLUTION

Wind turbine blade maintenance is a labor intensive work. To examine and repair the blades, trained operators, known as rope specialists, hang tens of meters above ground many times under adverse conditions. High velocity winds and/or extreme temperatures compose an unpredictable and dangerous working environment, both for man and machine.
Our solution was to automate access to the blades without deploying rope specialists. The main challenges were the unstructured working environment, aerodynamic forces, strict safety requirements and ease of use. The blade is stalled at a horizontal orientation and with the help of an inbuilt crane a small robot is mounted. The robot moves along the spar and performs ultrasonic testing spot by spot and assesses the blade’s structural integrity. The operator controls the robot’s movement through a joypad. Much like a remote control car. Our modular design copes with the varying curvature and geometry of the blades. Two powerful vacuum cups provide the required vertical force to withstand winds up to 6 Beaufort. Low weight and small size facilitate easy deployment.

SKILL SET

Functional specifications / concept creation / Mechanisms Design and Analysis / Pneumatics / Electric motors / 3D CAD Design / System Integration / Testing

NOZZLE INSPECT

BACKGROUND

Regular in-service inspections examine the integrity of the welded nozzles present in nuclear power plants. The cracks in boiling water reactor (BWR) nozzles discovered during the 1970s, led to a change in both the design and the materials used in their manufacture. Strict guidelines were established for periodic ultrasonic testing and much of the research work undertaken since the early 1970s involved specialized NDT methods for the in-service inspection of nozzles in boiled water reactors.

PROBLEM

Nozzle sections can be susceptible to crack growth due to thermal fatigue and stress corrosion. Early detection of cracks is therefore essential to ensure the continued safe operation of the facilities. To reduce the time and cost of such inspections there is a need to develop a system capable of performing a full inspection of nozzles without the need to change probes.

OUR SOLUTION

We developed a novel scanner and probe manipulator and combined it with a phased array technique for the inspection of BWR nozzles. Innora’s solution eliminates the need for complex robotic manipulation and reduces the size and cost of robotic deployment systems.

SKILL SET

Mechanisms analysis, Pneumatics design, Electrical & electronics systems design (motors & amplifiers, sensors, custom driving electronics), Mechanical design for prototyping (sheet metal forming, machining, adhesives joining, materials selection), Systems integration and debugging, Automatic controller algorithm design, Automatic controller low level software development, UI design & development.