Wireless technologies reduce costs and cut operational risk

Paul Boughton

Wireless subsea cameras, a smart wireless network linking wells, rigs and drilling units, and an ultrasonic scanner on flexible risers are among the latest wireless innovations on offer. Sean Ottewell reports.

Remote camera and video technology specialist EV has unveiled the industry's first commercial wireless subsea camera. Described by the company as ground-breaking, the new tool can stream live video over distances of up to five metres back to a pick-up point such as an ROV or hard-wired receiver, and has the potential to significantly reduce both operational risk and time.

The battery-powered Neptus wireless subsea camera (WSC) provides a major step change for the subsea sector through its novel features and has the capability to operate at depths of up to 350 metres for ten hours.

Applications for the camera and receiver include providing multi-perspective views of complex operations such as subsea tool intervention, construction and remote monitoring of subsea equipment. The camera's through-water wireless radio frequency (RF) technology has been supplied by a specialist in the field, WFS Technologies.

Francis Neill, ceo of EV, said: "Early application of the camera, which can readily and easily be deployed by ROV or attached to subsea hardware, also brings the very real potential of cutting out costly and time-consuming operational phases. For example, instead of deploying additional ROVs to capture a second or third perspective, which requires extra support infrastructure, Neptus WSC overcomes this by providing the additional view point and communicating wirelessly back to the operating ROV.

"Innovative technology is vital to addressing the increasingly complex deepwater environments that the subsea sector is encountering and we have already received extremely positive feedback on our Neptus WSC. Early discussions with ROV operators and subsea construction companies have generated significant interest in the technology with initial wet tests on elements of the tool conducted in April."

 Among other key applications that the Neptus WSC provides are:

* Providing a wider perspective view of subsea ROV operations;

* Making up subsea connections between jumpers and manifolds, risers and templates or vessels - anywhere that multiple views or perspectives are required in order to bring together two or more items and which are currently achieved by using a second or third ROV;

* Tooling/subsea controls applications which provide an additional view of operations such as subsea intervention around templates or wellheads and valve manipulation.

* Remote subsea monitoring. For example, leak monitoring or structural assessments from remote locations where cabled solutions are not practical.

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The Neptus WSC tool was launched commercially in June and will be followed in January 2012 with an advanced version that will feature an increased pressure rating, longer subsea life and pan and tilt zoom capability, and a wireless range of up to ten metres.

Alistair Birnie, chief executive of industry body Subsea UK, said: "Enterprising technology is fundamental to overcoming some of the challenges being faced by the subsea sector, particularly as it moves increasingly into some of the world's deepest water provinces. EV's wireless subsea camera underlines the UK's excellent pedigree in supplying the sector with leading technology in that it meets an identified operational need of working in deeper waters for a longer period of time."

EV has rapidly emerged as a market leader in downhole and wellbore camera technology. With bases in Aberdeen, Lafayette and Norwich, EV delivers customisable seabed and wells' surveillance solutions.

Like EV, WFS Technologies produces customisable resources for a variety of offshore settings and customers. The company is a leading supplier of radio and acoustic systems and solutions, including wireless communication, navigation and power transfer.

In the Sultanate of Oman, MARAC has undertaken the design, deployment, integration and support of the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) new smart wireless country-wide network.

The network will cover approximately 5000 wells, rigs and drilling units. The part of the project assigned to MARAC amounts to US$8m. The two other partners in the consortium which will cover the remaining part of the project's total cost of US$30m, are Oman Fibre Optics and Redline Communications. The award was given to the consortium following a tender process in which several international firms had participated.

This wireless network will provide high capacity services at all PDO points of presence in the oil field throughout almost the entire Oman territory and at the same time high-quality secure communication which will allow a better management of the oil production.

More specifically, it will provide remote monitoring and control as well as telemetry data transfer, voice, data and video communication – together with the capability of WiFi intranet connection to the PDO personnel at selected areas of the oil field.

The network's infrastructure is characterised by the effective use of the available frequency spectrum, the flexibility in load management for important applications like telemetry and the expandability which will allow future PDO needs for larger data volume to be satisfied.

Subsea specialist Flexlife has launched a new product to market that will help maintain asset integrity and safeguard the environment.

Known as FlexGuard, it incorporates Flexlife's award-winning ultrasonic scanning technology in the form of a collar permanently fitted to flexible risers. The subsea riser monitoring tool provides the operator with instant, continuous access to the condition of any riser remotely from any location in the world, ensuring a failsafe early warning system and providing major cost and safety benefits.

It incorporates the latest ultrasonic and subsea communications technology and is able to wirelessly, either on command or at scheduled weekly inspection times, provide the status of the flexible pipe’s annulus and underlying armour wires (Fig. 1).

FlexGuard can be fitted either during installation or by retrofit to risers already in use in the field offering permanent monitoring for corrosion/breaches.

Flexlife ceo Stuart Mitchell said: "FlexGuard is an excellent addition to the range of services Flexlife provides to manage subsea integrity throughout the assets lifecycle. There are around 3000 risers in service at present, with the number forecast to rise to 5000 by 2015. Around 35 per cent of risers suffer some form of outer sheath damage according to recent market surveys of operators. Once seawater breaches the outer sheath, corrosion rapidly follows leading to premature failures."

He went on: "Our technology can give an accurate depiction of the condition of a flexible pipe or riser, from the first stages of corrosion or degradation, allowing operators to plan maintenance in advance and avoid unplanned shutdowns. It offers a cost-effective permanent solution to monitoring and peace of mind for operators increasingly aware of their role in preserving the environment."

FlexGuard can detect specific locations of any flooding and scan the armour wires around flexibles to an accuracy of 0.1mm. The technology has been accepted by UK Health and Safety Executive and its Norwegian equivalent as helping operators reduce risk of major leakage of hydrocarbons and associated impacts. It can extend the lifespan of flexible pipes and prevent unnecessary early replacement, manufacture and disposal of flexible pipes.

FlexGuard is suitable for any size of riser and for depths of 3-3000 metres, meaning it is of particular benefit to deepwater provinces where traditional testing methods pose a major challenge and maintaining the integrity of subsea equipment is increasingly paramount.

In retrofit cases, it can be easily deployed either by ROV or diver, onto any flexible riser asset, via a riser-friendly clamping system that also makes the tool close to neutral bouyancy for ease of deployment.

Ultrasonic data collected automatically from the tool is transferred acoustically back to a surface vessel receiver. It is then sent electronically to Flexlife.

Flexlife offers a full design, delivery and maintenance service and has bases in the UK, Brazil and Asia Pacific. Customers include Hess, StatoilHydro Apache North Sea and Premier Oil.

Next-generation well testing technology

Text: Halliburton has launched its next-generation well-testing technology for deepwater environments. The technology provides improved economies to operators by enabling more efficient and reliable reservoir testing.

DynaLink, the company’s proven, two-way wireless acoustic telemetry system, now has the added capability to control downhole test tools from the surface during drillstem testing operations while transmitting real-time bottomhole pressure and temperature data.

Real-time bottomhole pressure, temperature and fluid data, along with acoustic actuation of test tools, helps to provide operators with the benefit of changing the pre-defined well testing programme based on reservoir response while testing.

"When a drillstem test is performed using memory mode devices as the only way of downhole data acquisition, an operator cannot determine if the well testing objectives have been achieved until the drillstem test string is pulled out of the hole," said Abdalla Awara, vice president of Halliburton's testing and subsea product service line. "The DynaLink high-rate downhole acoustic data acquisition gives the assurance that well-testing objectives have been achieved in real time. In short, this technology delivers efficiencies in optimising rig time while assuring the quality of the test data."

This technology was recently deployed successfully in deepwater wells in Mexico and Brazil.

Fig. 1. The subsea riser monitoring tool provides the operator with instant, continuous access to the condition of any riser remotely from any location in the world.

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