Picture Perfect: Sensor Fusion Is Bringing High-Definition Storytelling to the Digital Oilfield
April 06, 2017
GE Reports Canada
Oilfield operators love data, and for good reason: there’s no better tool for accessing and extracting resources than accurate information.
Data always tells a story, but really good data gives it a happy ending: greater efficiency, lower costs, and a smaller environmental footprint.
Poor data, on the other hand, can cause more problems than it solves. When the information is piecemeal, error-ridden, or delayed, it can lead to guess-work and mistakes. This is especially true when operators are forced to gather data manually.
Enter sensors. In recent years, the proliferation of sensors in the digital oilfield have transformed data-storytelling from capsule summaries into HD masterpieces. By building advanced sensor networks directly into their equipment and devices, operators gain immediate and extensive visibility into everything that’s happening with their assets.
Known as “sensor fusion,” these collaborative sensor networks use machine intelligence to create the optimal economic picture for each oil or gas well. We talked to four Zone Startups Calgary companies about how their sensor networks are revolutionizing the oilfield.
Osprey Informatics uses a diverse fleet of cameras—standard visible spectrum, thermal, and infrared—to detect gas, identify temperature changes, inspect equipment, and more. The data then travels to the company’s Osprey Reach cloud-system, where it’s analyzed using computer vision, which is a form of artificial intelligence. Companies that use this technology won’t need to send people to remote sites as often, and they’ll be able to respond more quickly if something does go wrong.
Bundled pH and conductivity sensors make up the probes that MaxFleet Solutions sends down wells to measure conditions. Sophisticated machine-learning algorithms instantly analyze the sensor data, and the information can then be viewed right away on a mobile app. With this technology, companies won’t need to rely on lab analysis, which often arrives too late, after the operators have already moved onto the next well.
A dizzying array of sensors helps Veerum create precise digital replicas of real-world sites: laser scanners, HFRF (high frequency radio frequency), LoRa (long range, lower power wireless platform), ground-penetrating radar, cameras, and LIDAR (light detection and ranging). The sensors are deployed using an equally impressive multitude of tools and vehicles, like low-orbit satellites, aircraft, aerial drones, vehicles and equipment, handheld scanning devices, and automated robots. All the data is uploaded to the cloud, where it is analyzed and synthesized on Predix, GE’s industrial internet, to create a comprehensive and precise “digital twin.” These digital replicas make data-gathering safer and more accurate.
Using magnetic sensors and its proprietary acoustic technology, Cold Bore Technology can interpret and identify noises far underground—as deep as 26,000 feet down!—on hydraulic fracturing operations. The sensors are placed on the frac tree at the surface, where they capture information about valve pressure, volume, and position, as well as each downhole event on a well. Without this technology, operators struggle to know whether their underground activities are successful or not. This way, Cold Bore’s sensors help companies avoid wasting time, resources, and money.