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Drone Inspection Helps Offshore Oil Rig

How Drone Inspection Helps Offshore Oil Rig?

As one of the world's most important non-renewable energy sources, oil is an important raw material for home heating, automobile fuel, and power generation. The exploration, extraction, and transportation of offshore oil are more complex, and with the help of contemporary innovations and cutting-edge technologies, the operation of offshore oil rigs can be inspected and maintained.

What is an offshore oil rig?

An offshore oil rig is a facility used for oil and gas exploration, extraction, and production in the ocean. About 30% of the world's oil production comes from offshore operations located in the world's oceans and other waters.

The exploitation of offshore oil resources is a valuable asset for all mankind. In the face of the complexity of offshore oil extraction, drone inspections have brought us a new perspective, helping maintenance personnel better explore areas that are difficult to reach.

offshore oil rig

Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) Exploration of Oil Wells

  • Drilling Barge: A large floating platform used in calm shallow waters. Firmly anchored, it can drill at depths of 15 to 150 feet, and can reach depths of more than 3.7 miles.
  • Submersible rigs: Similar to barges, they can partially submerge their structures in water for stability and can drill to depths of up to 175 feet.
  • Jack-up rigs: Multi-purpose platforms whose legs can be lowered to the seabed, operating at depths of 80 to 500 feet and drilling to depths exceeding 5.6 miles.
  • Semi-submersible rigs: Partially submerged in deep water for drilling, equipped with advanced computer systems when moored. Operating at depths of 1,600 to 9,800 feet and drilling to depths exceeding 6.2 miles.
  • Drillships: Self-propelled vessels equipped with deepwater drilling equipment, capable of independent navigation. Operating at depths exceeding 11,975 feet and drilling to depths exceeding 7.45 miles.

How do drones inspect offshore oil rigs?

Drone inspections can quickly and safely access critical areas of oil and gas construction, reducing health, safety and environmental risks. It is a cost-effective alternative to traditional methods such as rope access or scaffolding, providing rapid visual assessments even in difficult-to-access locations both onshore and offshore.

Offshore oil rigs are large industrial structures in the sea, equipped with fixed platforms, flexible towers, tension leg platforms (TLPs), floating production systems, subsea systems, SPAR platforms, which together maintain the operation of the oil extraction and production stages.

drones inspect offshore oil rigs

Drone inspections can overlook everything from the air and conduct detailed inspections of building structures exposed to the sea surface. Drone inspections can repeat multiple inspections and process data on captured images, replacing dangerous practices such as traditional rope access or scaffolding, reducing potential injuries and falling accidents.

Drone inspections help offshore oil transportation

Since most offshore production platforms do not store oil on board, oil production relies on an extensive pipeline network, and oil is transported to onshore facilities for processing and distribution after extraction.

For those intra-field pipelines (also called flow lines or feeders), they connect subsea wells to production platforms. Export pipelines transport processed oil or gas from the platform to shore.

It is worth mentioning that some mini drones can conduct tunnel inspections, and they still maintain good GPS signals for obstacle avoidance and navigation during tunnel inspections.

Drone inspections help offshore oil transportation

It can be seen that comprehensive inspection and maintenance are also required during pipeline transportation. The most important are leak inspections and corrosion inspections. Drone thermal inspections can well inspect industrial facilities, find leaks and corroded areas, and convey important information data to inspectors based on heat differences.

How do drones help offshore oil platforms?

Drone inspections need to be equipped with high-resolution cameras and thermal imaging capabilities to better see everything. At the same time, drones with cameras can also help law enforcement operations, detect suspicious activities around drilling platforms and prevent potential threats.

Most industrial drones can be equipped with additional payloads, such as gas detectors and Loudspeakers, Spotlights, delivery devices, etc., to help detect harmful gas leaks, throw supplies, respond to emergency work, convey commands, etc. The real-time situational awareness of drones can help commanders take quick action to solve problems.

Can drones inspect underwater structures?

Most drones do not support underwater work. Seawater is corrosive, and the air pressure under the sea cannot keep drones working continuously. Drone inspections of underwater structures of oil drilling platforms are not advisable.

What kind of drone should I choose for offshore oil platform inspection?

Technology changes life. Drone inspections have brought immeasurable benefits to offshore oil platforms and are a faster, safer and more efficient solution.

In drone inspections of offshore oil platforms, inspectors need to have skilled flying experience, pass the Parts 107 exam, and obtain a drone license. The drone needs to be equipped with a high-resolution camera and thermal imaging, with third-party load function, stable signal, and long flight time to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the inspection process.

offshore oil platform drone inspection

Drone inspections should be carried out in clear weather with wind and sunshine. The drone inspector takes a boat to the vicinity of the offshore oil platform, and the drone departs from the boat to inspect the industrial structure. If you choose a long-range drone to depart from the coast, this will reduce the inspection time of the drone and may encounter accidents during the flight.

For offshore platform inspections, I recommend the Autel Dragonfish series tilt-rotor VTOL drone. This drone is a large drone that can switch between fixed-wing and multi-rotor, has good wind resistance, and can replace multiple camera loads to help visual inspections. The drone can travel for more than one hour at a time, helping managers to better manage assets.

Here, we explain the importance and innovation of drone inspections for offshore oil platform inspections. Drone technology is serving and upgrading multiple fields, embracing change, better inspecting and maintaining the safety of remote structures on offshore oil rigs.

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