More and more oil extraction takes place on the ocean floor –not the easiest place to reach when it comes to maintaining and repairing pipelines that don’t function the way they should. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have developed and patented a new technique called the pressure pulse method for finding plugs in oil pipelines on the ocean floor.
Robots in pipes
Wax deposits are currently the largest unsolved problem in underwater oil production. Oil that is sent from a platform was cooled when it passed through pipelines on the ocean’s bottom; as a result, deposits build up along the pipe’s interior.
Currently, when the flow through the pipe is restricted, the pipeline is shut down, and a robot is sent into the pipe to crawl its way through. Now and then these robots get stuck because they encounter obstructions that are simply too large for them. The operator then has to close off the pipeline and reverse the pressure, so as to get the robot unstuck. Sometimes the robot has to travel a long stretch of pipeline before it finds something to get started on. Both situations can take quite a long time.
Time is money in the oil industry, and lost production time can quickly become a costly affair. If a platform is closed for a longer period of several months because the pipelines are shut down, the costs can top NOK 10-100 million.
Professor Jon Steinar Gudmundsson, who developed the pressure pulse method, explains that he came up with the idea after he observed the shut-down of a geothermal well in Iceland.
”When a well like this is closed with the help of a pressure valve, a pressure wave is created. I realised that this pulse could be used for something constructive,” Gudmundsson explains.
The method is based on a seismic principle and is similar to an echo-sounder: A pressure pulse is sent out and the return signal is measured. “The principle is the same as what we call a ’water hammer’. That’s the bang you hear in a washing machine or a dishwasher when the flow of water to the machine is shut off quickly,” he says.
Mapping with sound
The reflected sound waves from the sound pulses can be measured using complex analytical methods. The measurements can then be used to create a map of the inside of the pipeline, right up to the next pressure vent. Such a map can show where the pipe narrows, and where the deposits are so thick that they plug the pipe. The information helps operators choose the best possible method for clearing the pipe.
Professor Gudmundsson’s idea uses existing installations to measure pressures. The pressure valve is already in place. The only thing that needs to be done is to close the valve quite quickly, which creates the pressure wave.
Markland Technology AS has been spun off of NTNU to sell the method to large oil companies, and has met with considerable success, says Gudmundsson. The business has been developed and licensed by Harald K. Celius.
Jon Steinar Gudmundsson | alfa
Harder 3D-printed tools – Researchers from Dresden introduce new process for hardmetal industry
11.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Keramische Technologien und Systeme IKTS
Flying High with VCSEL Heating
04.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.11.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy