This is one in a series of articles about how ConocoPhillips global business units around the globe are using drones to safeguard personnel and property, minimize environmental impact and cut costs.
by Jan Hester, photography by Patrick Currey
Around the globe, ConocoPhillips business units are using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, to change the way they do business. In the process, they’re saving time and money while reducing risks to the company’s people and property.
The traditional method of inspecting a vessel’s crude oil cargo tank is to stage (scaffold) the internal structure and have surveyors and technicians perform a visual survey and take thickness measurements. This method was adopted to meet American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) close-up inspection requirements. Associated risks to people and property include damaging tank coatings, dropping objects to the tank floor and working at height in confined spaces.
In May 2018, ConocoPhillips’ wholly owned subsidiary Polar Tankers successfully completed a series of inspections on the Polar Discovery using a UAV — a first for ConocoPhillips. A team headed by Engineering Superintendent John Strebel worked with ABS and UAV contractor Cyberhawk Innovations to develop an alternative inspection process for performing a full-class inspection of 12 cargo, two slop and five ballast tanks.
Completing mandatory inspections using UAV technology was an industry first for a U.S. flagged vessel and satisfied both ABS and USCG regulatory requirements for U.S.-flagged vessels operating in Alaskan waters.
UAVs can reduce the need for people to work at height and in confined spaces, enabling a safe first audit of the tank so that further inspection and maintenance can be prioritized.