Vinçotte Uses Robots to Inspect Belgoprocess Storage Tanks
Vinçotte, member of the Kiwa group, was recently contracted by Belgoprocess for visual inspection and thickness measurements of bunkered storage tanks at their wastewater treatment plant. Due to the ionizing radiation and the risk of radioactive contamination, a remote inspection was the logical solution.
Belgoprocess selected Vincotte as a partner for a multitude of reasons. Not only had Belgoprocess previously collaborated with Vinçotte with excellent results, but in this case Vinçotte's proposed solution stood out. “Innovative ideas had a lot of weight in this tender,” says Frankie Vermierdt, project lead for Belgoprocess. “The proposal to use a robot was new, but above all realistic and well thought out.”
In this case most of the storage tank was stainless steel, which prevented the use of magnetic crawlers. Suction-based crawler robots and UAVs (drones) were also deemed unsuitable due to the high risk of contamination in such environments.
Belgoprocess and Vinçotte combined their experience to overcome these and other obstacles, while Vinçotte's robotics partner hibot supplied the Floatarm, an articulated arm robot for multifunctional NDT inspections (NDT stands for Non Destructive Testing) as a solution. This arm can be packaged against contamination and equipped with the appropriate sensor payloads. Furthermore, a cage was developed to provide the robot with access to the narrowest corners of the deep bunkers using the existing overhead cranes.
“Setting up the prototype and further implementation on our installation went extremely smoothly,” Frankie continues, “thanks to the excellent communication and interaction between the teams at Belgoprocess, Vinçotte and hibot.”
A Successful Result
No major preparations, such as building scaffolding or other general protective measures, were required for the inspection. Furthermore, thanks to the Floatarm, the risk associated with working at great heights can be significantly reduced. And of course, the exposure of personnel to ionizing radiation and the risk of radioactive contamination is kept to a minimum. In short, an inspection that meets all standards for industrial safety, occupational safety, and health.
All measurements of the remote inspection by the Floatarm were digitized and related to a coordinate system and point cloud.
“The collaboration with Vinçotte went very smoothly, through all phases of the project. We are very satisfied with the results of the Floatarm inspection,” Frankie concludes. “We are already preparing for the next project and look forward to continue our collaboration.”
Established in 1872, Vinçotte is the largest inspection, auditing and certification company in Belgium and offers over 220 services in the fields of inspection, certification, conformity assessment and training. Its 2,000 employees dedicate themselves every day to increasing the safety, efficiency and sustainability of society. Vinçotte is active in the Benelux region and conducts over 5,000 inspections each day. It has more than 100,000 clients, comprising multinationals, SMEs, sole traders and individuals.
Vinçotte merged with the Kiwa group in May 2022 to further expand its business domain, not only in Europe but also in Asia, America and Oceania.
Belgoprocess is a Belgian company, responsible for the processing, conditioning and storage of radioactive waste. In addition, Belgoprocess focuses on the dismantling and remediation of decommissioned nuclear installations and the decontamination of materials. Belgoprocess carries out these activities on the site of the former Eurochemic reprocessing plant in Dessel (site 1) and in Mol (site 2).