Shell UK Oil Products Ltd

Re-Gen Robotics was commissioned by Shell UK Oil Products Ltd to clean two Jet A1 fuel storage tanks at the Shell Haven Terminal. Both tanks have a resin lining applied to the floor and 1 m up the tank walls.

The ADR tanker was stationed 10 m from the tanks and the robotic equipment was craned into position. No scaffolding or bespoke equipment was required as
Re-Gen Robotics supplied the complete system to position the robot in the tank.

At no time during the entire cleaning process was there a requirement for human presence in the confined space. The operator remained in the Zone 1 control unit where they could monitor activity through a series of ATEX cameras and gas monitoring equipment fixed to the robot.

The unique features of the large robot made it ideal for cleaning the storage tanks. A combination of specially designed 3500 psi jetting water nozzles, powered by a high-pressure low flow pump, played a vital part in the cleaning process.

The auger system at the front of the robot broke down heavy sludge without the requirement to use water, thereby generating less waste. The sludge was then extracted by an ADR certified jet/vac tanker with 4800 m3/hr vacuum capacity.

The efficiency of the clean is crucial to planning schedules and means that the tanks can be brought back into operation earlier than they would be following manual cleaning. It also removed the need for additional tank capacity, permit delays and additional support teams.

Using a fully contained waste removal and a 360 ° cleaning process, the waste material was transported from the site using an ADR tanker and safely treated in an authorised, licensed facility.

The entire tank cleaning operation was recorded on CCTV from the ATEX cameras and was made available to Shell upon completion of the work. All files were date and time stamped to ensure the process was traceable for auditing purposes.

A record of gas detection readings is also issued on completion of each vessel cleaning, produced by the onboard gas monitoring equipment.

Following inspection after the first tank clean, it was noticed that the resin lining in the tank had been damaged in a number of locations. From initial inspection it appeared that the robot’s magnetic tracks had caused the damage. Floor lining contractors were immediately engaged and the damage was assessed. Re-Gen Robotics agreed a remedial programme with the Shell Haven team to repair the damage to the floor.

It was agreed that the magnetic tracks would be removed from service for lined tanks and plain rubber tracks were fitted to the robot instead. Cleaning recommenced and the floor lining in the tank remained intact.

It is important to note that the second tank was cleaned without the need to spade the valves on the tank. During a manned entry clean this procedure is mandatory as it mitigates an accidental opening of the valve, inhibiting fuel from entering the tank and causing injury.

On average it would take two members of staff a full day to spade one tank, so eliminating the necessity to carry out this operation reduced tank cleaning time and tank downtime and was therefore a further cost saving for the terminal operator.

Overall the feedback from Shell has been positive. These are the first tanks to be completely cleaned and inspected by Shell, worldwide, without the need for human presence in the tanks.

Following this initial project, Re-Gen Robotics has been commissioned to clean another 28 m tank at the Shell Haven Terminal, with a floating roof and approximately 40 legs within the tank to navigate.

Conclusion

Robotic cleaning technology is making a monumental difference to safety and is on its way to being adopted as best practice within the tank cleaning sector. There are now realistic and proven alternatives to ‘man entry’ tank cleaning. The health and safety of personnel engaged in tank cleaning is paramount. Using robotic equipment to carry out works in hazardous confined spaces is the most logical and safe way to clean tanks.

Terminal and refinery operators can be assured that they have mitigated the risks associated with confined space tank cleaning, as far as is reasonably practicable, when they engage a contractor that has invested in the right equipment to clean their tanks.

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