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Wireless network enables greater reliability

14 April 2010

Emerson Process Management has announced that Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij B.V. (NAM) has successfully applied Emerson's Smart Wireless technology to mobile wellhead test equipment. NAM’s Well Test Department monitors wellhead performance to ensure that output is maintained at the highest possible level.

Wireless network enables greater flexibility and reliability
Wireless network enables greater flexibility and reliability

They have recently started using the wireless sensors on their test systems because they are universally deployable, easy to set up, and have greater flexibility, higher reliability, and reduced commissioning and dismantling times.

NAM is the largest gas producer in the Netherlands, with annual production of around 50 billion m³. Gas produced by NAM covers around 75% of Dutch demand. NAM also produces around 0.4 million m³ of oil a year, which accounts for a quarter of all the oil produced in the Netherlands.

For a safe and profitable exploitation of gas and oil fields, it is crucial that all the production sites function at maximum efficiency. If a well’s capacity drops, or if the well is regularly closed for maintenance or servicing, it is the job of NAM’s Well Test Department to investigate. Containers housing mobile test equipment are taken to the site and connected to the wellhead in order to identify the root cause of the problem, and bring the well’s production capacity back up to the highest attainable level as quickly as possible.

"Before we made the decision to move to Emerson’s Smart Wireless technology for our mobile test rigs we carried out extensive testing," said André Lahuis, NAM Assistant Operation Supervisor. "We really tried everything to affect the signal between the sensor in the field and the base station. Using special equipment, we generated every possible type of signal (radiation, EMC, radio signals, magnetism, etc.) but the wireless signal was not affected. In addition, Emerson’s heavy encryption and other security features mean that the wireless system is completely secure from outside interference."

NAM’s traditional test equipment used wired instruments to measure pressure and temperature. This meant there were many cables running over the ground and, although these were secured wherever possible, they represented a safety hazard. Set up and commissioning were time consuming and, because each location required a different sensor configuration, there were often problems with the instrument connections caused by corrosion in the connectors, or a break in the cable resulting in erroneous readings.

Following the successful trials, NAM now has three mobile test units which are equipped with Emerson’s wireless sensors for differential pressure and temperature. "The use of Emerson’s wireless technology on three of the test rigs has simplified set up and installation and reduced the time spent at each wellhead," continued Lahuis. "When we get to a site we put the sensors on the apparatus, install the gateway receiver, switch the system on and get on with other tasks. Within a few minutes, all the sensors have automatically registered with the receiver and we only need to enter on the screen which sensor is in which position. We have to do very little to get these instruments working correctly."

The test rigs are continually being moved between wellheads and the technology is proving ideal for the demands of this challenging application. The wireless devices are both reliable and secure and are interchangeable. This makes the system highly flexible and easily configured to suit the individual well head. As the test rigs are moved, the team of operators may change and the uniformity and ease of operation of the Emerson systems and devices has proven to be a significant benefit.

Following the successful introduction of wireless technology, NAM has identified a new opportunity to use Emerson’s recently introduced wireless pH transmitter to test the acidity of the oil being extracted. This is currently done using test strips but the wireless sensors will enable measurements to be continually made online. Klaas van Bruggen, NAM Operation Supervisor, said, "Measuring pH values online is something that we will be doing wirelessly just as soon as we can. Emerson’s Smart Wireless technology is enabling us to automate measurements that we could not previously, because it was either impossible or uneconomic to do so. If only this system was available years ago!"

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