Transforming safety in the oil tank cleaning industry

16 August 2023

Aidan Doherty, Managing Director of Re-Gen Robotics discusses why operators responsible for tank cleaning in the Oil & Gas industry must not be complacent about the liabilities posed by major accident hazards.

The oil tank cleaning industry plays a critical role in ensuring the efficiency and safety of oil storage facilities. However, traditional practices, such as manual entry into tanks for cleaning and maintenance, have proven to be hazardous, leading to numerous avoidable fatalities and accidents. In the past oil companies not demonstrating best practice did not give adequate priority or resource to safe, reliable and efficient tank cleaning methods, considering accidents the cost of doing business.

In recent months, there has been a notable rise in activity within the oil storage sector due to the easing of Covid-19 mitigation measures. As a result, operators have a prime opportunity to carefully assess their tank cleaning schedules and methods for the future. As operators strive for enhanced safety and risk reduction, the adoption of no man entry cleaning methods is becoming increasingly favoured.

The industry and all its players should be advocating for the urgent enforcement of manless entry in the oil tank cleaning industry, where possible. Increasingly, proactive oil majors are prioritising the elimination of deaths and accidents to protect their workers’ lives and their own financial stability by avoiding reputational damage that can adversely impact their share prices.

Sending in men to manually clean oil tanks presents inherent risks, including exposure to toxic gases, lack of oxygen, and potential explosions. These hazards have tragically resulted in the loss of human lives and severe injuries.

Employing manless entry systems, such as Re-Gen Robotics no-man entry, Zone o EX certified, remote controlled robotic tank cleaning services, can significantly reduce or eliminate these risks altogether. By removing human workers from dangerous confined space entry environments, companies can prevent accidents and fatalities and ensure the well-being of their employees.

The team at Re-Gen Robotics has a highly specialised background in the field of oil tank cleaning, hydrocarbon recovery and waste minimisation and their experience encompasses every tank design and type of material such as crude, petrochemical, black oil and white oil.

The company is regularly engaged in finishing projects where other tank cleaning service providers have failed and in under four years, Re-Gen Robotics has eliminated 15,000+ hours of CSE cleaning in tanks. Over 60 tanks including no man entry tank cleans for oil majors such as Shell, Valero, P66, Exxon Mobile and Vermilion have been completed.

Industry players are embracing no man entry tank cleaning services because they’ve discovered they offer major advantages in terms of operational efficiency. Re-Gen Robotics technologies can perform tank cleaning tasks with increased speed, precision, and consistency compared to any other system or human labour. Tank downtime is reduced by 40 up to 80 per cent, mainly because of the short time it takes to assemble the equipment and the fact that staff are not required to enter the confined space of the tank.

From arrival onsite the entire tank cleaning system can be set up in two hours, which is a small percentage of the time required for human crews to prepare to enter a tank. Robotic tank cleaning is classed as a medium risk contract because the process is no man entry, this in turn reduces paperwork and permits. There is no requirement for capital outlay or spading of tanks.

Re-Gen Robotics robotic systems are not susceptible to fatigue or human errors, leading to improved cleaning quality and reduced downtime during maintenance activities. As a result, companies can enhance their overall productivity and cost-effectiveness.

By implementing no man entry technologies, oil tank cleaning companies can achieve substantial cost savings. The initial investment in implementing automated systems may be offset by long-term benefits, including reduced labour costs, lower insurance premiums, and minimised expenses associated with accidents, injuries, and litigation.

Additionally, the optimisation of cleaning processes through robotic technologies can lead to efficient resource utilisation, such as decreased water and chemical usage, further contributing to cost reduction and environmental sustainability.

ATEX Zone 0 robots are the most economical and environmentally friendly because of their closed loop cleaning circuit and their ability to reclaim precious oil from the sludge and return it to the customer so they can monetise it.

Government bodies worldwide have recognized the hazards associated with manual tank entry, leading to the implementation of stringent safety regulations. Companies that fail to comply with these standards face severe penalties, legal consequences, and reputational damage. Embracing manless entry technologies demonstrates a commitment to safety, ensuring compliance with regulations and avoiding potential fines. This proactive approach enhances the industry’s image and safeguards companies from adverse impacts on their share prices.

In today’s interconnected world, reputation is everything. News of accidents, injuries, or fatalities in the oil tank cleaning industry spreads fast, leading to negative public perception of affected companies. Adverse incidents can irreparably damage a company’s reputation, undermining investor confidence and directly impacting share prices. By prioritising manless entry companies can protect their brand image, enhance stakeholder trust, and maintain a positive market valuation.

The implementation of manless entry in the oil tank cleaning industry is creating a paradigm shift that is promoting safety by eliminating fatalities and accidents. Oil majors can not only protect human lives but also create a sustainable and profitable future for themselves by investing in advanced technologies and embracing Re-Gen Robotics’ tank cleaning systems.

Re-Gen Robotics service is notably increasing safety during tank maintenance by removing the necessity of workers entering into dangerous, confined spaces. In addition to the safety benefits, the overall maintenance expenditures in most cases are reduced and site disruption is shorter. The key success is achieving far greater technical results while having less people risk their lives.

It is time to prioritise safety, embrace innovation, and work towards a safer and more efficient oil tank cleaning industry.