We will focus initially on the specific market sector of refined petrochemical storage and move on to unrefined having the benefit of feedback from the least challenging application. Globally there are over 500,000 storage tanks of which almost one third are in Europe (166,000). Of these 40,000 are large petrochemical tanks.
Project NautilUS will have an impact both in the provision of new low cost testing methods allowing customers to drive down operational costs through preventative maintenance, and in reducing the cost and complexity in current testing practices (£10BN p.a. industry saving). It is common within the industry for major companies to outsource to specialist providers who supply services and specialist equipment tailored to specific customer needs.
Generally, the UK NDT industry has a small number of consolidated international players, with a pool of niche technology, products and service providers which are accessed opportunistically. Analysis of the industrial landscape reveals there are two main areas or gaps which have held back full exploitation of the benefits available from NDT: timely technology transfer of new techniques and market perception of the value of inspection in some quarters. For the future, there are two additional potential barriers: the need to maintain or grow investment in R&D and the increasing skills gap due to an ageing workforce and the need to adopt more advanced NDT technology. Project NautilUS surmounts these barriers.
The focus of UK activity in the petrochemical sector is on service provision and in supplying a ready market for new products and providing a pathway for growth both from capturing market share and by creating new markets, in this case, for semi-permanently deployed low cost robots for statistical monitoring thus countering more costly competitors - primarily US e.g. Solex (MAVERICK), GE (ASSET). The main barriers to entry will be demonstrating both standards compliance and efficacy of the system. The key focus of TWI’s work in the present project is to ensure the functional capabilities of Project NautilUS (statistical underwater structure monitoring) in pre-commercialisation demonstration activities.