The use of the Applus+ CU24 inspection crane at one of the largest integrated refineries and chemical manufacturing sites in Europe, Shell Pernis in the Netherlands, brought significant cost savings of up to 80%.

Applus+ CU24 remote inspection

Corrosion under insulation (CUI) accounts for a disproportionately large percentage of maintenance spending. CUI can affect reliability or even cause shutdown of a process or an entire facility. Prevention using visual inspection is the best means of combatting CUI.

Until now, visual inspection has been a costly, time-consuming and risky process. For example, inspecting 19 km of piping took six years using scaffolding and rope access. Applus+ has looked for innovative solutions to these problems, working with Shell Pernis to make the visual inspection process easier, safer and faster.

The goal was to improve the efficiency of piping bridge inspections, thereby reducing maintenance costs. One means of doing this was to speed up pipe-rack inspections. Dennis van Iersel, then Programme Manager at Shell Pernis, invited the Applus+ team, as experts in drone technologies, to discuss the possibility of using drones for remote inspection of piping bridges and supports. Applus+ did not encourage the use of drones in this case, however, as they cannot provide close visual access to all piping.

Instead, the Applus+ team customised a stabilised crane mounted with a HD camera specifically for use in pipe-racks inspection. During the proof of concept, the CU24 proved significantly faster than conventional inspection methods, and savings on inspection costs looked promising. Using the CU24 inspection crane for piping inspections off-plot achieved cost savings of up to 80% in scaffolding and 50% compared to rope access.

Even more significant was the reduction in inspection time from six years to two years. The quick scanning of all piping bridges allows for a long-term strategy to be set out for maintenance, based on piping condition and risk. In 2017, the CU24 won the commercial success award at Shell Pernis, in recognition of the cost savings generated. The CU24 also improves the company’s safety record, with the risk of safety incidents almost zero given that operators and inspectors work safely and remotely from a tech van nearby.

Applus+ is keen to find innovative solutions to improve the safety and efficiency of visual inspection and non-destructive testing. Cameras and other sensors can be mounted on customised tools for remote visual inspections, for example, while drones, ground tools or crawlers can be used depending on the asset to be inspected and the inspection goal.

This case study (see the full Case Study here) proves the value of innovation as part of effective maintenance. The development of remote tools carrying HD cameras and sensors can meet client needs by speeding up visual inspections, improving safety and avoiding unnecessary shutdowns.

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