Terry Charleton, Europe CIS Business Development Manager:
When you hear the term ‘wireless’, those of a certain generation think of the radio and the magic that brought memorable music and programming into your livingroom. In the fast-paced 21st century, the term has a completely different meaning. We think nothing of wireless printing, headphones, music streaming and other applications.
The oil and gas industry has often been reticent in adopting new technology and the use of wireless systems is no exception. However, there are excellent examples of the use of wireless technology in surface applications. For example, in production plants where the use of wireless communication allows data to be transferred without the need for costly cable installations, which inevitably need replaced and maintained over time. The use of wireless systems at onshore plants can also assist with the automation of certain processes leading to cost savings.
In the well, wireless systems taken on a new meaning. We have seen wireless technology used for the transmission of downhole data during well testing operations via acoustic methods or in some cases, electromagnetic waves. It is important to note however that some ‘wireless’ systems do require the use of cables, as it is appreciated sending data thousands of feet in a metal-encased well presents certain challenges!
Smart completions are another area which can now be classified as wireless. The usual method in this area is to operate various downhole devices using pressure pulses.
Drilling and completing wells is an expensive business and the risk of losing critical data can often lead to Operators using the tried and tested method, i.e. wired solutions. However, the extra time and cost to run traditional systems means that wireless systems are increasingly utilised. This is especially true in the current financially constrained oil and gas environment.
So, when will we see the 100% wireless well? Technology is advancing at an exponential rate and as new systems are developed and cost reduces, just as in our everyday lives with mobile phones, tablets and music systems, it’s only a matter of time before the adoption of wireless systems is the norm in the 21st century oilfield.