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From academia to industry: Mahesh's story

From Academia to Industry: Mahesh’s Story


Mahesh has always been passionate about science and technology but began to develop a keen interest in the field of electrical and electronics during his advanced level studies. That interest led him to follow a BEng Electrical and Electronics degree programme at London South Bank University in 2011. 

During his degree, Mahesh was able to get in touch with Mechatronics, robotics and control subjects, which then led him to pursue a PhD programme in robotics with NSIRC in 2015. His topic was to design and prototype an advanced robotic platform to climb on mooring chains and deploy a robotic arm to investigate structural defects.

As the world’s energy consumption has increased, so too has the number of floating oil and gas production systems, which need to be regularly inspected and maintained. It is not possible to move most of the floating production systems for inspection or repair, and mooring systems used to attach them to the seabed often experience high tidal waves, storms and harsh environmental conditions.

Therefore, ensuring the integrity of the mooring chain is crucial, not least because they cost approximately £2-10.5 million to repair. There were 21 accidents due to mooring failures between 2001 and 2011, including 8 multiple mooring chain breaking incidents.

When a mooring system or chain breaks, vessel drift, riser rupture, production shutdown and hydrocarbon release can occur. Often trained NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) divers are deployed to inspect the system, however, due to health and safety concerns they are not allowed to inspect a chain in the splash zone area, so access to the chain is limited. 

Replacing mooring chains to inspect the original is also expensive and there is a high risk of damage; Gryphon Alpha had to spend $1.8 billion to resume activities following a mooring failure.

The robot Mahesh has developed uses a wheeled permanent magnet adhesion that allows it to rapidly climb the chain to deploy an NDT robotic arm to assess the link for possible defects such as cracks and corrosion. It is designed to be used in air and underwater to access all the areas of a mooring chain and perform non-destructive inspection to detect fatigue cracks and corrosion.

The light-weight, fast-moving and user-friendly robot will help to enhance the integrity management of mooring chains to reduce the possibility of breaks, as well as minimise inspection costs and time.

Last year, Mahesh submitted his research for the Industrial Impact Award and was awarded a runner-up prize. The awards, organised by NSIRC as part of the Annual Conference, recognise students’ research that makes a significant contribution or takes an innovative approach to solve an industrial problem.

Alongside the Industrial Impact Award, Mahesh’s work was awarded second place for the CLAWAR Association Best Technical Paper Award and contributed to winning an Innovate UK grant for further research.

Having completed his PhD (currently awaiting a Viva), Mahesh is now working as a Research Assistant in the London South Bank Innovation Centre (LSBIC), based at TWI.  LSBIC focuses on developing mobile robots that provide access to very large and vertical safety-critical structures that may be located in hazardous environments, and on the deployment of a range of NDT techniques. Along with the other Innovation Centres hosted at TWI, LSBIC also links closely with NSIRC.

When asked about his experience of NSIRC, Mahesh said: “Because of the NSIRC program I was able to conduct my research in an industrial environment. Since my PhD topic is directly related to the industry, being in this setting was vital”.

For more information, or to speak to Mahesh about his research, please contact enquiries@nsirc.co.uk.


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