No one really knows when there are cracks inside storage tanks until it is too late and oil starts to spew out. As you know when hurricane Harvey came and ransacked majority of South Houston earlier this year, it exposed many weaknesses with petroleum storage tanks. But Harvey was not the main culprit, yes, the hurricane blew off roofs, flooded banks and damaged everything in its path, but even on a good hot day storage tanks would still release gas emissions and have small leaks. The hurricane just proved that these tanks are not built to last forever. The result of the hurricane has made some of the oil and gas companies come together and figure out a way on how to know when there are issues with the tanks before it’s too late. For example, Phillips 66 wants to put drones inside the storage tanks. The Houston refiner is partnering with the Boston startup Square Robot for robotics that can inspect tank floors and survey and map out any obstacles while they are filled with oil, gasoline or other petroleum products.
These robots will be submerged inside the tanks in the oil and will be able to tell when a tank needs to be fixed. So far, these types of drones are only used for military purposes and personal use but with the help of Philips 66 they will be widely used for the oil and gas industry. The first robots with Phillips 66 are expected to enter service sometime in 2018. It looks like these robots will be in high demand as storage tanks are being built at a high rate in the Houston area and across the country. Additionally, there are at least 15 projects to expand or construct pipelines have been proposed to carry oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from Permian Basin to Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont. And all of those liquids will need temporary storage.