COP26: EIC's Supply Chain Case Study Series - Re-Gen Robotics (Day 8)

COP26: EIC's Supply Chain Case Study Series - Re-Gen Robotics (Day 8)

08 Nov 2021

The EIC's Supply Chain Case Study Series highlights key EIC Survive and Thrive Insight Report case studies all throughout COP26, highlighting the success stories of the energy sector in decarbonisation and innovative new energy transition technologies.

On Day 8 we look at Re-Gen Robotics' journey to a safety-first approach to tank cleaning.

How is Re-Gen Robotics thriving?

After witnessing first-hand the dangers involved in cleaning industrial tanks with confined space crews, Fintan Duffy decided to do something about it. His new company Re-Gen Robotics has developed a one-stop robotic tank cleaning solution, a system which is rapidly winning over clients and building a track record which soon nobody will be able to ignore.

The challenge

Robots have, undeniably, had a profound impact on the way we work. From the laboratory to factory floor and many workplaces in between, these automated machine assistants have cut the time spent on manual, repetitive tasks and reshaped the makeup of the labour force.

New use cases are being discovered all the time, especially where robotics can enhance the health and safety of industrial activities.

For Fintan Duffy, working in engineering and construction settings running confined space crews had exposed many industrial accidents waiting to happen. Cleaning chemical tanks, for example, involved personnel relying on controls and personal protective equipment to keep them safe, and were always at risk of human error leading to accidents.

With 200 people in Europe losing their life in these sorts of confined spaces every year, there had to be a better way, and so Duffy took the plunge and decided to set up Re-Gen Robotics.

The solution

Duffy had started looking into the concept of a robotic tank cleaning solution some 10 years ago, but was unable to find anything capable of ‘zone 0’ – explosion proof and intrinsically safe inside a fuel tank.

He explored the idea again five years later, identifying manufacturers in Slovakia and Italy who between them had the potential to develop a suitable solution – indeed, Duffy was determined to prove it could be done having been told numerous times that his ambitions were impossible to achieve.

A year-long R&D process with Italian partner Gerotto kicked off in February 2018. Gerotto had the setup needed to design key robotic system elements such as the chassis and jetting compliant with zone 0 conditions.

With a 100% zero-man entry system developed, it was down to Re-Gen and Gerotto to find and work with key suppliers to produce the components required to build the tank-cleaning robots – Volvo is responsible for the ADR-specification chassis, Valley Tankers UK supplies water and vacuums, and Fassi Cranes Italy provides equipment for lift and install.

There were bumps along the way, not least in getting the system operational and road legal, a stumbling block which prompted many changes to be made to the initial design. The challenge, however, was met.

Re-Gen, with its completed system, is now its exclusive user and is taking the solution to market, armed with formidable numbers to put in front of prospective clients.

Its robotic system on average completes a job 40-80% faster than a manned crew. For example, a white oil tank which would ordinarily take eight days to clean with an eight-person team can now be cleaned in 2.5 days with just two people operating the robot. In manhours terms, it has cut the requirement from 280 manhours of confined space man entry to zero hours, carrying with it an enormous safety benefit.

This has proven particularly attractive to clients during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has enforced numerous additional safety measures to be taken by organisations undertaking industrial activities. Social distancing rules make it difficult for a team of eight to operate in harmony, making the option of using a two-person and robot team much more viable. Further still, the reduced time taken also cuts the amount of water used as well as emissions.

Re-Gen is currently fulfilling its largest contract to date for Philipps 66 at the Humber Refinery on the northeast coast of England. The £1.1 million project involves cleaning three heavy duty oil tanks, each with 50-metre diameters and containing 300-500 tonnes of sludge that requires removal. A landmark contract win, the work will help Re-Gen towards a forecasted revenue of £2 million for 2021, building on the £1.1 million made last year.

And the future looks even brighter if the intentions of multinational giants are anything to go by. Shell has committed to end manned tank cleaning across its operations by the end of 2022, with other majors looking at 2025. Duffy’s instinct, it appears, has been proven correct.

About Re-Gen Robotics

Re-Gen Robotics is the first and only Zone 0 EX certified, remote controlled, ‘No Man Entry’ robotic tank cleaning company, in the UK and Ireland. The company places a high premium on workplace safety and with bespoke, state of the art equipment, workers are not exposed to the dangers posed by operations carried out in hazardous confined space environments, including refineries, pharmaceutical plants, industrial and agricultural sectors.

Read the full EIC Survive and Thrive Insight Report here.

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