PetroChina joins Sinopec in tapping robotics to take over gas refill from humans

Robots are increasingly sought-after to keep human employees out of harm's way, because of inherent safety risks in the refining industry.

PetroChina, one of China’s largest two refineries, has incorporated a new smart tech subsidiary with a registered capital of 500 million yuan (US$70.72 million), business registry information portal Tianyancha shows.

Headed by Hu Bingjun as its legal representative, the new venture’s scope of business covers IT advisory, industrial internet data service, cloud computing and smart robotics, among others.

Notably, this is the first time that PetroChina was revealed to be making its foray potentially into robotics.

This move came two years after its arch rival Sinopec, another domestic refiner, decided to branch into robotics.

In January 2022, Sinopec injected close to 100 million in strategic financing into welding robot developer Botsing (博清科技), marking the first time the state-run refining giant directly poured money into the robotic segment.

In August last year, a gas-pumping robot developed by Sinopec and Yijiayou Co. Ltd, made its first public appearance.

Photo courtesy of Sinopec

Yijiayou is a joint venture formed in January of the same year by Sinopec and Hangtianyunji, a Beijing-based smart manufacturing firm, with a registered capital of 100 million yuan.

Sinopec and Hangtianyunji each owns 50% of its stake.

Three-minute session

The venture rolled out a robotic fuel pump that is able to automatically refuel vehicles at a gas station, with the driver remaining in the car.

After the motorist places an order on a mobile app, the robot will identify the position of the gas tank and extend out its arm to open the fuel cap.

It then plugs in the nozzle gun to refill the gas tank. After the refill is over, the robot screws the cap back on. Each session lasts about three minutes.

In addition to gasoline refill robots, Sinopec has also deployed a dozen other robots to its outlets, including those for the detection of fire hazards and inspection of electrical equipment.

Robots are increasingly sought-after to keep human employees out of harm’s way, because of inherent safety risks in the refining industry.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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