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Comment Solids Handling

Robotic device removes catalyst from reactors remotely

By Scott Jenkins |

robotic catalyst removal

WorleyParsons

A remote-operated, screw-propelled (amphirol) machine equipped with a vacuum hose can remove solid catalyst material from reactors robotically, allowing plants to avoid subjecting personnel to enclosed work environments and inert atmospheres. Currently, catalyst changeout requires personnel to work inside process vessels with breathing apparatus to remove the materials.

Developed by WorleyParsons (Brisbane, Australia; www.worleyparsons.com), the robotic device is equipped with a vacuum hose to suck granular material out of the vessel, and dual rotating screws that allow it to move across the surface of solid material (photo). The robot, dubbed Carol (catalyst amphirol), also has an onboard camera, which allows an engineer to operate it safely from outside the vessel.

The robot is lowered into the process vessel by a crane-and-winch system, and then “floats” on top of the solid catalyst as it is maneuvered around the vessel to remove the solid material, explains lead developer and WorleyParsons engineer Chris Jansen. The hydraulically powered screw-drive design is key to the robot’s operation, Jansen says, because it allows versatile and nimble movement through the granular material in all directions without getting stuck.

In manual versus robot trials, the Carol system achieved catalyst removal rates that exceeded that of humans over the unloading period, WorleyParsons says.

After a successful demonstration of the remote robotics technology last year, WorleyParsons is now beginning a “beta testing” phase by conducting two in-plant catalyst-changeout field trials. The first began in late April at a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Australia, and the second is scheduled to begin in late May at a U.S. petroleum refinery.

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