SUMMARY - Solex Robotics is first in the world to provide an in-service robotic inspection by deploying through an internal floating roof.


Maverick testing  was conducted in a large fuel oil storage tank (120,000 bbls, 164 ft. diameter, 51 ft. high, 21,000 sq. ft. bottom, dome with internal floating roof) at the Colonial Pipeline facility in Francisville, Louisiana.  Specific testing goals targeted refinements to the sonar tracking system and deployment into a tank with an internal floating roof.  Prior to the demo, an extensive safety review was conducted and procedures to allow safe deployment of the equipment into confined spaces were jointly written with Colonial personnel to control operations, along with all of the required permitting.  The March 20th U.S. DOE National Industrial Competitiveness through Energy, Environment, and Economics (NICE3) demo at the Mobil refinery in Torrance, California was instrumental in expediting this process.

The tracking system software was tested  to verify programming changes.  Major portions of the code had been rewritten to support hardware modifications and many operational upgrades were in need of real-world testing.  A minor bug was located and corrected in the software relating to the display of the tank bottom drawings.  The software and system hardware operated well during the remainder of the tests.  A number of other upgrades to the software were also tested successfully, including pre-filtering of the gyro data for stabilization, and rework of the position determination math, and dynamic registration of the positioning data to the tank map to allow for easier initial setup.  Additional software upgrades have been scoped as a result of the testing to improve the usability of the system.

Deployment into an internal floating roof tank was also a major factor in the testing.  This was the very first time any robotic inspection equipment has ever been deployed into a full internal floating roof tank.  To enable this insertion, Solex engineers prepared a Job Safety Analysis and obtained the safety authorization by Colonial Pipeline Health & Safety.  Additionally, Solex personnel received training in Houston for entry into confined spaces since the enclosed area under the dome above the floating roof is considered a hazardous confined space.  Colonial was concerned about damage to the top surface of the floating roof, a very thin sheet (.030") of aluminum sheet metal over a honeycomb internal structure.  Solex placed plywood sheets and a long strip of carpet on the roof to avoid potential damage.  The internal roof doubled the amount of time to deploy the robot into the tank compared to Torrance.  All of the equipment and software was operating properly on the second day of testing, and an abbreviated inspection of a portion of the tank bottom was conducted for comparison to the last inspection of the tank. The 160 ft. tank has 208 steel floor plates in its bottom construction.  The previous inspection took over two weeks to conduct due to the vast size of the tank.  The prior survey provided approximately 2,000 UT data points.  Maverick was able to measure and record 35,000 data points in less than three hours.

Numerous personnel from the site's inspection and operations divisions visited the work site during testing and were very impressed by the rapid UT data acquisition the sheer amount of detail revealed about the tank floor.  Industry is used to seeing simple spreadsheets of raw numbers.  Solex provided three-dimensional, color-enhanced representations of the thickness data on the control trailer computer screens in real time.  Solex's performance was described as "pushing the envelope".

This series of demonstrations were made possible by contributions and support from the U.S. DOE Office of Industrial Technology, Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, Colonial Pipeline, Mobil, Amoco, Shell, and Exxon. On behalf of the SolexTeam, Thank You.

References available upon request.