Throughout ADIPEC visitors have been attracted to Yokogawa’s stand by a bright yellow robot with caterpillar tracks featured prominently in the middle of the booth. The device, called ExR-1, was designed and created by Netherlands-based ExRobotics B.V., a developer of robotics technology for hazardous and potentially explosive environments, and a new partner for Yokogawa.
Yokogawa’s Robotics Service
Yokogawa has identified high interest from customers in utilizing robots as a means to ensure safer operations by minimising human exposure to hazardous areas, improve operational efficiency and lower operating costs, and provide consistent data collection. According to Norinao Sato, Director & SEVP at Yokogawa Middle East & Africa, the company is in the process of developing a robotics service platform to address this rapidly increasing demand and will partner with leading players in the robotics space.
As the first step toward the development of this platform, last month Yokogawa and ExRobotics announced the signing of a licensing agreement that will enable Yokogawa to sell and deploy ExRobotics’ inspection robot hardware and software platforms worldwide. Under the agreement, Yokogawa will leverage its customer base and global sales and service network to introduce the ExR-1 and future ExRobotics products to offshore and onshore oil and gas production facilities where inspections by humans should be minimised, as well as large refineries and chemical plants.
ExRobotics and the ExR-1
ExRobotics was established in 2017 to commercialize robotics technology for use in the potentially explosive atmospheres found at oil and gas production and processing facilities, which are often in remote locations with harsh environments. It is building on the knowledge gained from the Sensabot program that was led by Shell and sponsored by the North Caspian Operating Company. Even on normally unmanned facilities, a human presence is generally still needed for regular inspection work, so deploying robots can have a significant positive impact on worker safety by minimizing worker field trips, which in turn reduces operating costs.
Equipment operating in these hazardous environments must have IECEx Zone 1 certification, and the ExRobotics ExR-1 was the first commercially available robot of its kind to meet the stringent requirements. It can be equipped with a range of sensors and cameras, has 4G LTE wireless network capabilities, and can be monitored and operated from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone by an operator located in a safe control room anywhere in the world. In fact, on the stand, streams from ExR-1 robots around the world could be viewed on a single display. The robot is certified at a module level, which allows for customised configurations. It also has optional modules for gas detection and autonomous navigation.
Samir El Awadi, Commercial Director at ExRobotics says: “With our IECEx/ATEX certified robot, ExRobotics and Yokogawa offer a unique solution for smarter, safer and efficient inspection of oil & gas facilities”.
Hiroshi Tanoguchi, head of the Lifecycle Service Business Division at Yokogawa, adds: “We see huge demand from customers for service solutions that can address the safety, environmental, and economic issues they are facing in the field. The technology approach of ExRobotics, a co-member of the SPRINT Robotics Collaborative*, meshes perfectly with Yokogawa’s vision for a robotics services platform. We look forward to building on this initial agreement to explore opportunities for collaboration on advanced solutions in the future.”
According to Muhammad Nadeem, VP of Yokogawa Abu Dhabi, ADIPEC is one of the world’s largest and most influential events in the oil and gas industry calendar and has been the ideal platform for Yokogawa and Ex-Robotics to feature ExR-1. Uniquely equipped to meet the demand for humane and pragmatic solutions to mitigate safety challenges inherent in oil and gas facilities, ExR-1 solves existing problems by harnessing future technologies. This initiative to shape the future of the industry while being firmly anchored in the present business realities has always been a key feature of ADIPEC and its attendees.
* An industry-driven initiative launched in 2015 to promote the development, availability, and application of robotics techniques in technical inspections and maintenance of capital-intensive infrastructure