The energy company bp has successfully completed an autonomous vehicle trial at its Lingen refinery in Germany, working with Oxford-based autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica. They say the trial was a world-first in the energy sector and the latest addition to the bp ventures technology portfolio.
During the trial the vehicle travelled over 180km fully autonomously, safely navigating what’s described as “the extensive and complex” environment of the bp refinery, including busy junctions, narrow paths, railway crossings, and multiple terrains, during both day and night and in unpredictable weather conditions. Oxbotica was able to deploy its autonomy software platform and integrate with the existing infrastructure within two hours of arriving on site.
Following the success of the trial, bp says it aims to progress to deploying its first autonomous vehicle for monitoring operations at the refinery by the end of the year.
It says the self-driving vehicles will enhance human operations and improve safety by increasing the monitoring for irregular conditions, faulty equipment and security threats, making it more frequent and around the clock, and that the autonomous vehicles’ enhanced analytics will help the site reduce the size of its current fleet.
Morag Watson SVP digital science and engineering, bp said, “This relationship is an important example of how bp is leveraging automation and digital technology that we believe can improve safety, increase efficiency and decrease carbon emissions in support of our net zero ambition.
“Lingen has 30 km of roads. Intelligent technology like this helps us make the incremental but equally critical improvements to our operations, so we can continue to focus on delivering the energy the world needs in the way that it wants. I am looking forward to working with Oxbotica to explore how we can unlock the full potential of autonomy.”
The announcement follows bp’s recent $13m equity investment in Oxbotica. The partnership will give Oxbotica access to bp’s operations, retail sites and customer network, helping to unlock its potential.
Ozgur Tohumcu, CEO at Oxbotica explained, “As part of our first refinery trial in Lingen, we showcased how autonomy improves safety, reduces emissions and improves productivity. The investment from bp will allow us to scale our autonomous software platform across the energy ecosystem with a number of planned use cases and unlock the true power of universal autonomy.”
Beyond the trial, bp says it believes that Oxbotica’s technology can help it to create “an inherently safer operating environment for field workers through its reliable, repeatable, and predictable application”.
(Picture – bp/Oxbotica)