The Cambridge region is well known as “Silicon Fen”, for its pioneering hi tech electronics, medical and bio technology companies. It’s probably less known for its expertise in the oil extraction industry, yet Innova Systems customer and SOLIDWORKS user, CAMCON Oil Ltd is a company set to revolutionise the oil industry with a solution that takes on the challenge of enhanced oil recovery head-on.
The problem in focus
The world is aware of a decline in crude oil production – the oil wells are drying up, we are told. The reality is that oil still remains in existing fields. However, the efficiency of oil extraction is fairly low due to the archaic technologies that have been in use for some 50 years. In simple terms, as you take more oil from a well, the pressure drops, so you need something to lift the oil, either by raising the pressure or pumping it to the surface. So the ideal solution is to make the column of oil lighter and allow the gas to flow to the surface.
A problem that the oil industry faces on a daily basis is regular downtime involved in dealing with the varying levels of pressure of oil flow to the surface. Existing gas-lift technologies use side pocket mandrels which require pressure-level configuration upon deployment. When oil pressure changes, as it ultimately does, the gas-lift needs to be reconfigured. In the case of side pocket mandrels this means lifting the unit to the surface and swapping it for another. In the course of this, oil extraction is interrupted for up to 30 days incurring production losses, in multiples of $10,000 or $100,000 per day. To make this worse, there is no way of predicting or measuring a need for a change other than witnessing a decrease in the flow of oil to the surface.
In response to market-led demands from the oil industry, the company has taken its solution from conception through to design and manufacture. The product is now coming off the back of very stringent testing procedures with plans in place for it to be deployed for the first time in Oman by the end of the year.
CAMCON’s Digital Intelligent Artificial Lift (DIAL)
CAMCON’s revolutionary product is configurable from ground level, meaning that reconfiguration results in a no downtime, saving a company many hundreds of thousands of dollars. The device can make use of six valves (sizes as specified by the client) that can be engaged electronically from the surface in response to readings from pressure gauges. The solution is therefore a proactive one that involves minimal downtime and optimum yield. Similar products have been conceived in the past, but have failed at the test stage. CAMCON’s DIAL unit has already passed some stringent test and design requirements laid down by an industry leader and is now ready for its first big test.
SOLIDWORKS Design and Simulation plays its part
As is all too evident to us all, safety in the oil industry is a major concern. High temperatures of over 175°c and high pressures of up to 10,000psi mean that any unit involved in the extraction process must be able to withstand immense stress in accordance with not only functional requirements but safety also. The components used in CAMCON’s DIAL are high tolerance machined parts made up of very hard expensive nickel alloys and very high chrome content stainless steels.
There are high costs involved in the physical testing stage – it is therefore important that this testing is not an experiment but rather a verification of its functionality. “There’s no point throwing one in, in hope of it working. SOLIDWORKS Simulation gives us the confidence that it is fit for purpose and the safety factors it will work at”, says Peter Watson, Project Manager. “In our experience, it is very much a ‘works first time’ situation when you go into testing after carrying out Simulation in SOLIDWORKS. Analysis is an iterative process and allows us to make the changes and validate the results quickly.“
Oil producers are concerned about how much gas mixes with the crude oil and therefore want to know how much gas will flow through the unit. SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation analysis allows CAMCON to answer their client’s questions and give them a good idea of how much gas will be used in a day by the device. “SOLIDWORKS Simulation is a very strong tool but the beauty is that it is so easy to use.”
“We have valued the expertise from Innova Systems. Their training and support provides us with experienced guidance from exceptionally good engineers to help us concentrate and use SOLIDWORKS to design our innovative new products.”
The future looks bright for CAMCON – they are currently in the process of expanding their offices and testing facilities and are entertaining interest from major oil companies. No doubt the offers will be flooding in when their first deployment goes ahead.