The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) has developed ‘Blaster,’ a robot designed to operate in hazardous areas and situations such as those arising in oil and gas plants. The prototype system is being trialled by the Petroleum Institute of Abu Dhabi to increase safety in oil and gas refineries
According to CSM professor John Steele, refinery operators are currently exposed to potential explosions, gas leaks and extreme weather conditions. ‘We are trying to get robots to do the same operations humans can do, but by taking the human out of harm’s way, we are increasing safety.’
Blaster is equipped with a methane gas sensor, video camera, microphone, thermal imaging camera, GPS, digital compass, laser-range finder and Wi-Fi. The CSM is developing applications that monitor and log the sensors’ data.
The CSM has entered France’s ‘Argos’ challenge. Argos, a.k.a. the Autonomous Robot for Gas & Oil Sites sets out to encourage the development of robotic systems for use in extreme conditions of cold and heat and hazardous environments where they can reduce workers’ exposure to risk.
Argos has backing from Total and the French National Research Agency (ANR). The plan is to ‘attract the attention of actors across the robotics world to the difficulties encountered by the oil gas industry [and to] pool competencies to produce the robots of tomorrow.’
Winners of the initial challenge will have two and half years to further develop their technology. Robots should be to be able to ‘accomplish repetitive tasks and respond in an emergency.’ More from CSM and from Argos.
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