In-Well, Optical, Strain-Based Flow Measurement Technology and Its Applications

Unalmis, Omer Haldun (Weatherford) | Trehan, Sumeet (Stanford University)


In-well flow measurement remains as one of the most difficult tasks in the oil and gas industry, mainly due to the challenging conditions of the downhole environment. When made successfully, however, it plays a major role in monitoring and optimizing well performance, especially for the wells equipped with advanced completion devices. The increasing demand for in-well flow measurement is also driven by other factors including zonal production allocation in multizone completions as well as reliable commingled production, reduction of surface well tests and facilities, and detection of production anomalies.

This paper provides a closer look at one of the state-of-art in-well flow measurement technologies: optical, strain-based, phase flow rate measurements via turbulent structure velocity and sound speed of the turbulent flow. It is an introduction to how this flow measurement technology works and how it is applied to different flow applications from single-phase injectors to multiphase producers. Specific field examples representing different flow applications are also referenced to published material. The strong and weak points of the technology are explored, and in the process, an operation envelope is produced for the use of this technology. The system response to the presence of advanced completion devices are also discussed, guidelines are given, and recommendations are made based on field and lab tests.

Understanding a technology's strong and weak points before implementation is essential to ensuring that informed and successful decisions can be made concerning its use for a given application. This process is often mutually beneficial to both operators and equipment manufacturers since collaborations can lead to advancement of technology and, as a result, provide even more reliable solutions.

The use of the phrase "intelligent well?? was not common a decade ago. The reason is hidden in its definition. Because we are engineers and not linguists, our definition can be based on what we would like to achieve in using that phrase: An intelligent well should typically have sensors downhole to measure flow properties including pressure (P), temperature (T), flow rates, phase information such as gas volume fraction (GVF), water-in-liquid ratio (WLR), and perhaps more. It should also be possible to control and optimize the well production by means of adjustable chokes on the surface and in the well, so that an even flow distribution can be achieved particularly in multizone applications with the end result being more efficient production and longer lifetime of the well. Most of these complex, state-of-art devices were not available not too long ago. This has changed thanks to the technological advancements, and today we can manage wells more "intelligently??.