Monitoring Steam Injection Wells Wirelessly

Emerson’s Alan Baird shared a great story I wanted to pass along. The story begins with a Middle East oil & gas producer. The production field used steam injection to help lift the hydrocarbons to the surface for further processing. For those of you in other industries, here’s a brief description of the steam injection process:

Steam injection is an increasingly common method of extracting heavy oil. It is considered an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) method and is the main type of thermal stimulation of oil reservoirs. There are several different forms of the technology, with the two main ones being Cyclic Steam Stimulation and Steam Flooding. Both are most commonly applied to oil reservoirs which are relatively shallow and which contain crude oils which are very viscous at the temperature of the native underground formation.

The traditional method to monitor the steam injection wellheads includes solar panels plus battery backup for power, remote terminal units (RTUs), radio communication units, explosion-proof junction boxes, dynamic flow computers, pressure and temperature instrumentation, and the associated cables, cable trays, tray supports, etc. required in wiring it all up.

Alan and team looked at what equipment would be required if the measurements were performed and transmitted via IEC 62591 WirelessHART devices. They used the AMS Wireless Snap-On software in the AMS Device Manager application to develop the design. One design consideration was where to do the totalization calculations. The one-minute updates from wireless devices led to the decision to bring the signals back to the SCADA system and do the flow calculations on the receiving end.

They did some pilot wells to test the design and compare the wireless approach with the wired steam injection wellheads. For the flat terrain of the production field, they discovered the wireless devices could communicate over 300 meters. The wireless differential pressure (DP) flow, pressure, and temperature transmitters caused no interference with the existing radios on the wired wellheads.

Each wellhead had one differential pressure (DP) flow, two pressure, and one temperature transmitter. For the pilot, these were installed in the same impulse lines they had and the DP lines across the V-Cone element. The flow calculations between the wired and wireless approach were within 0.1% of one another. They were also able to get diagnostic alerts from the wireless devices back to the AMS Device Manager software.

The pilot proved not only the wireless approach was a cost-effective alternative; it was also much faster to install and commission. The oil & gas producer has a constant need to bring new steam injection wells on-line to maintain production rates. They can now wirelessly instrument and do totalization calculations on one steam injection wellhead per day.

The results were significant enough to call the pilot a success and roll out across this and other production sites.

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