All the possibilities of using a drone

Tecpetrol has started using this technology to analyze the internal integrity of pressurized equipment and tanks at Fortín de Piedra. Come fly with us!

Integrity. The invisible—or not so invisible—bond linking Fortín de Piedra’s CPF (Central Processing Facility) with the Pesquería Power Plant. Or Campo Pendare, or the facilities at El Tordillo.

The area in charge of integrity at the company’s facilities reports to Maintenance Management. We spoke to Iván Barrientos Cabrera and Natalia Sabbag, Integrity Engineering Experts, who explain that, “Our task is to carry out studies and monitoring to ensure the integrity of the equipment and machines, based on risk analysis and the regular execution of inspection and monitoring plans.” Pads, tanks, pipelines, separators, and drilling rigs are all assets and they all work with hydrocarbons: “Our area’s job is to make sure none of these gets lost. That’s called integrity, and it involves many different practices as well as laws, evaluations, parameters and recommendations.”

3D reconstruction of the flight in the tank.-

Each facility has its own maintenance plan, which is analyzed according to different tools: the equipment is surveyed, the data loaded into the risk analysis software, and the results used to set the parameters for the inspection plans.

However, the area has recently been equipped with a new tool, optimizing time, costs and safety: “Each piece of equipment is inspected with different techniques depending on what you want to find out: for instance, to measure thicknesses, different tools are used such as ultrasound, scans, or digital scintigraphy. In some cases, we have to dismantle pipes or in others, you have enter the gasoline tanks measuring 1,600 m3,” explains Iván.

The warrior takes a break.-

In the background, the distinctive buzzing of the drones provides a sound track to Pablo Fichera’s words. The Digital Innovation Sr. Manager explains that, “In the Digital Innovation area, we’ve been evaluating the benefits of using drones in the industry, mainly from two different angles: on the one hand, using them with Artificial Intelligence tools to analyze and classify the images captured and/or detect anomalies in a more agile way. On the other, as a vehicle or means to capture images in remote, confined or difficult-to-access places more quickly and safely, as we did in this case.” “Without these drones, we’d have to erect scaffolding and send someone into the tanks. In addition to avoiding having people work at height and in confined spaces, the inspection we perform now is far more precise,” adds Natalia.

With the HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) award from Tecpetrol.-

“We’d already employed drones that perform visual inspections for the Fortín de Piedra vent flare. The added value with this new version is that we can fly it in confined spaces, because of its size,” explains Iván. The team’s efforts using the drone have been recognized with the award of Tecpetrol’s HSE prize (Health, Safety and Environment) in 2023.

Another way of ensuring quality results is to articulate the 3D software with LiDAR laser radar, which means that the drone can survey the entire structure as it flies through, enabling the interior of the facility to be fully reconstructed. This feature is very useful when quantifying possible damage, and it can be adapted to incorporate different sensors for specific inspections, in addition to the visual function.

At the ready to enter the S-041 separator at MEG Module 1.-

There are many possibilities, such as the opportunity to fully analyze the Slug Catcher, one of Fortín de Piedra's key pieces of equipment, which needs to be dismantled entirely when an exterior inspection is performed. The best way to clear up all uncertainties is to access the pipeline itself, as a visual inspection trumps all others, and the drone can tour the pipe from inside. “Our idea is to ensure that each piece of equipment can contain whatever it is transporting. We see it, we measure it and we quantify it. You don't know what you can’t see, you see what you know," says Iván. “The next steps are to scale up use to other Tecpetrol operations and areas,” finalizes Pablo.

Experience at Fortín de Piedra

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