COMMERCIALISATION: UNILORIN Graduates, Who Developed Pipeline Inspection Robot, Need NNPC, Shell, Others

Since the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in early 60s, crude oil has been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Being the mainstay helped the country in building and sustaining other critical industries and sectors of the economy till late 70s. However, the exponential growth of the population and essential needs of the citizens in early 80s and 2000s suggests that crude oil, the main source of revenue to the government at all levels remains insufficient.

Meanwhile, it is instructive to note that the focus of this piece is not about highlighting the inability of the oil and gas industry to adequately solve revenue needs of the country, but to explicate the importance of tapping pipeline inspection robot (PIR) by stakeholders in the industry. PIR was developed by some students of the University of Ilorin, as their final year project. AbitoCitta had earlier interviewed one of the students, who gave the details of how the idea was conceived and executed.

Over the years, statistics have shown that a significant number of oil pipelines have been vandalized, while some have been badly managed. These outcomes have been loss of thousands of barrels of crude oil per day and revenue by oil companies. Losing revenue has also resulted in employees downsizing or retrenchment. Where it took several days to detect the vandalized pipelines, the result has always been environmental pollution, impacting life of aquatic animals and human living in areas where the vandalized pipelines are located.

As noted by our analyst, our check also reveals that “From an economic standpoint, pipeline assets can be categorized into critical and non-critical pipelines, based on the level of impact they have on the Operators’ production figures. Critical Pipelines are those that generate important loss of production, and financial risk to the Operator, should operation be interrupted for a significantly long time. The failure of such pipelines can also be a disaster in terms of environmental contamination resulting from leakages or oil spillage. This therefore means, pipeline Operators need to adequately prepare in advance for emergency failures as they can be very dramatic with associated high production losses and environmental damage.”

From our insights and the background check, it is clear that one of the solutions to the perennial vandalization and poor maintenance of damaged pipeline is available at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. Though, it is possible that the project has not been adequately tested for sustainable use, it is obvious that technology-driven solution is available locally for the problems associated with oil pipeline in Nigeria.

As noted by one of the students, PIR has a capacity of helping companies monitor critical areas where pipelines are being destroyed or need emergency maintenance. AbitoCitta wants concerned stakeholders, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Shell and Mobile to connect with the students through their University and Department towards commercialisation of the idea.

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