Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are set to reshape the world of critical infrastructure, leading the way towards a sustainable future. In a groundbreaking study conducted by Gecko Robotics and Rho Impact, the potential of these technologies to reduce the environmental impact of essential infrastructure has been unveiled.
Digital transformation’s impact on emissions
Digitizing carbon-intensive infrastructure could be a game-changer in the fight against climate change. The report reveals that this transformation has the potential to slash carbon emissions by a staggering 853 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 annually. To put this into perspective, it’s equivalent to taking nearly two-thirds of all gas-powered vehicles in the United States off the road.
Five sectors for transformation
The study focuses on five key sectors, each with unique opportunities for digital transformation:
1. Oil and Gas Pipelines: Robots can swiftly detect corrosion and damages, reducing fugitive emissions. AI-driven preventative maintenance programs can avert pipeline failures, potentially leading to a remarkable 556 MMT CO2e reduction in fugitive emissions.
2. Pulp and Paper Industry: Digitalization can prevent corrosion of components. Robots and AI can efficiently identify and address corrosion in paper mill tanks and pressure vessels, while also optimizing paper mill boiler operations, potentially reducing annual emissions by 46 MMT CO2e and improving emissions efficiency by 6%.
3. Maritime Transportation: Digitalization offers the potential to optimize shiploads and detect leaks, making larger vessels up to 70% more efficient than smaller ones. By employing robots to inspect these vessels more efficiently, 11 MMT of CO2e emissions could be prevented.
4. Bridge Infrastructure: Robotic data collection and AI analysis can reduce the time bridges are closed for maintenance and repair. This approach could potentially cut traffic-related emissions by 10 MMT CO2e.
The role of data in climate action
The report underscores the critical importance of data in addressing climate change. Transitioning major carbon-emitting industries into the digital realm requires a comprehensive understanding of their infrastructure. Manual inspection methods often fall short, providing limited data that fails to identify critical defects, ultimately leading to inadequate maintenance.
In stark contrast, robotic inspections enable operators to gather comprehensive and detailed data, facilitating more informed maintenance decisions that enhance efficiency and prolong asset lifespans. Integrating robots and AI into digital transformation strategies simplifies the collection and analysis of vital data, offering a win-win scenario by helping industries combat global warming and boost their financial performance.
The transformative power of robots and AI in critical infrastructure is poised to reshape industries while contributing to a greener planet. Digitalization offers unprecedented opportunities to reduce emissions, improve efficiency, and extend the lifespan of essential assets. As these technologies become integral to infrastructure management, we can expect a brighter, more sustainable future.