Robots Improve Efficiency and Worker Safety on Transocean Oil Rigs
Transocean, a leading offshore drilling contractor, has rig operations located in harsh environment and ultra-deepwater locations across the globe. In the offshore world, Transocean was challenged to improve their operator’s drilling performance. More importantly, they needed to create a safer environment for employees working in potentially dangerous red zone areas of the rig.
Transocean partnered with FANUC’s Authorized System Integrator ARC Specialties to design an automated solution to handle the drilling riser connections, which was the most labor-intensive operation. Before automation, this hazardous job required team members to carry heavy bolts and use brute force to manipulate torque wrenches for each bolt on the riser.
The Robotic Solution
ARC Specialties worked to overcome several challenges that can impact operations on an oil rig located in the ocean – including wind, rain and waves – not to mention inconsistent parts affected by harsh conditions. These circumstances are much different than most factory operations where the equipment is typically stationary and bolted to the floor.
ARC Specialties had no reservations regarding the reliability of FANUC’s robots but knew that the system would require the latest adaptive control software. This would allow the robot to work consistently in a dynamic environment including the constantly changing motion of the vessel and the riser.
The system uses two FANUC M-900iB/280 FoundryPro robots with enhanced rigidity for applications requiring ultimate precision and the ability to work in harsh environments. The robots are also equipped with FANUC Soft Float software and a custom torque tool which allows them to react to variances in workpiece precision and the extremely heavy torque load. In addition, iRVision® enables the robots to “see” the position of the bolts.
This is the first system of its kind and has proven a huge success! It has improved efficiency by moving Transocean’s skilled workers out of the dangerous red zone to other areas of the rig where they can perform different tasks. Another key benefit is achieving higher levels of consistency with robotic automation without the concern for human safety.