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Robotic Crawlers: The Smart Approach to Pipeline Integrity Management

We are in an era where the use of robotic systems to create simplified solutions to business challenges takes precedence. The robotic crawler is one of such highly efficient systems.

In a research article on the benefits of robotic crawlers by GE, it is stated that one third (540,000 km / 335,000 miles) of all pipelines worldwide are considered unpiggable because of access and valve restrictions, multi-diameter designs, impassable fittings and a myriad of other configuration issues.
Nevertheless, regulations exist that ensure these pipelines must be inspected on a continuing basis and that safe working conditions must be maintained to guarantee a long and profitable life span. Failures in pipelines usually result in incidents that can have devastating impacts on life, reputation, production, management and the environment.

Theoretically, any pipeline can be modified to allow in-line inspection. However, the costs of excavations and permanent installations have been, in most cases till date, exceedingly prohibitive. Even in given instances where traditional modifications are feasible from engineering and logistics perspectives, flow interruption may not be an option – either because they are critical supply lines or because the associated lost revenues could be nearly insurmountable.
With this in view, all operators are tasked with considering maintenance measures that are cost effective, thorough and most importantly, ensure optimal safety at all times.

Robotic crawlers have been identified as one of the solutions with very high potential to meet the challenges faced in the area of Pipeline Inspections. This technology is increasingly being used by forward–thinking Asset Integrity Management and Oilfield Service Solutions companies as a means of both maintaining pipelines and ensuring that major assets have a long and efficient life.
Robotic crawlers are able to inspect a very broad variety of pipeline sizes and types, provide detailed, real-time internal-condition data in about half the time as conventional systems. The technology has also been seen to reduce risk, inspection time and consequently, facility downtime.

When used proficiently, robotic crawlers can be used to inspect the condition of unpiggable natural gas pipelines running under water of certain depths. These crawler models make use of rugged track systems to navigate difficult pipe geometries and inspect lines that are inaccessible to conventional methods of pipeline inspections. The robotic tool helps solve problems that have been plaguing the pipeline industry for years.

For more information on robotic crawlers and their applications, please click here.

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