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Over the last 3 years, a team derived from several world-leading companies and institutions have been gathering regularly to problem solve a global problem that exists within the oil industry. The Project nautilUS Consortium is part of an Industrial Strategy - Innovate UK government-funded project team who have been working together to apply their individual skill sets to deliver nautilUS, a low cost in oil storage tank inspection system.
We at DesignSpark have been on hand to follow their story. In the video below you can view the first under oil inspection test made with nautilUS. We learn what each member brought to the project, their level of involvement, the technical challenges they were faced with and how they developed and brought solutions, plus looking at the commercial opportunities that lie ahead for nautliUS.
When filling up at the service station we don't really consider the journey that fuel has taken as we transfer it from pump to car. Much less where it's been stored prior to us using it. Once raw oil has been extracted there begins a multifaceted process of refinement, containment, storage and transportation. Each of these being an industry within an industry.
With oil and fuel storage being an integral commodity within a global industry, it follows that the infrastructure of storage facilities worldwide must be adequate and robust. Regular inspection must be made to ensure storage tanks are fit for purpose. The most common inspection method often means each storage tank is taken out of service while it's drained and inspected for corrosion, this is both timely and costly not to mention hazardous work.
The nautilUS solution addresses these issues head-on, being intrinsically safe it can be deployed in hazardous areas, as a sub-nautical vessel it can be submerged under the oil on to the tank surface, plus the benefit in being small means it can be deployed easily through service hatch size openings. Using a clever mixed of sensors nautilUS can monitor and plot its own position whilst carrying out corrosion inspection. This means that nautilUS can map the tank walls with near pinpoint accuracy whilst logging areas of concern and maintenance. Another feature that nautilUS has is the autocorrect alignment, for example, if naultilUS encounters an obstruction in its path such as tank peg, it will re-route around this and re-align to its original path.
Mapping and fault monitoring inside the tank.
Storing volatile chemicals can lead to disastrous consequences if not carried out safely. Unfortunately, as recent news has shown the impact of poor storage practice can prove to be devastating. With nautilUS, the team are providing a safe and secure method of lower-cost tank inspection compared to the alternative methods used widely today.
The current situation related to the global pandemic of Covid19 has had a knock-on effect on transportation. With lower levels of travel, fuel storage has been more in demand than ever before, capacity levels are topping out quickly. Project nautiLUS has just become a viable solution for carrying out in oil tank inspections the world over.
The next stage of the journey is to move from test to commercial deployment. As Mike Burrows mentions, nautilUS has had active responses from 70 tank farm operators globally, suddenly this next stage is looking to be very interesting indeed.
Industrial Strategy supports the development of innovative technologies and products within the UK.
The purpose of this government body is to invest in skills, industries and infrastructure by backing businesses to boost productivity and the creation of jobs, thus increasing earning potential throughout the UK.
Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency.
As part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government, they support science and technology ideas that can help the economy to grow. With a strong business focus, Innovate UK drive growth by working with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation.