Forget Inspector Gadget, Inspector Robot is here

Technology |  2 min. read

The future is here.  Soon, oil companies can forget about the daunting process of inspecting storage tanks. They won’t have to drain the tank;  send someone into the dark, cavernous space to do an inspection and then refill the tank.

Last month, Square Robot, Veritank and Phillips 66 successfully completed the first in-service inspection of the interior of an above-ground diesel storage tank using a new robot at Phillips 66’s terminal in Sacramento, CA.

This particular robot was specially designed to inspect the inside of those big circular fuel storage tanks you see at refineries and petrochemical plants — and, to do it while the tank is full:  no need to empty the tank first, no need to send a human being down into a tank that’s just been emptied.

That orange thing is the robot, headed up for a day on the job…

It’s an important job — making sure a storage tank is clean inside, and making sure the tank bottom is solid and sturdy — and that job starts with inspecting the tank.

Now, autonomous robotic technology makes the work safer and simpler (the technician gets to stay on the ground, outside and away from the tank). The robot in this case has a camera system which can see if there is any sediment and give a visual indication of tank cleanliness.

Phillips 66 is helping lead the way with in-service tank inspection robots, and is in good company when it comes to advanced technology.  Throughout the fuel and petrochemical industries, autonomous and remote-controlled robots and drones are going to work, in places where it can be difficult or dangerous for people, inspecting storage tanks, pipelines and other equipment.

So when you hear the one about these robots who walk into a bar — don’t be surprised if they’re taking a break after a day’s work — at a refinery.