BP to develop advanced fibre-optic sensing technology

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BP has invested in technology to turn optical fibres into sensors that could monitor the entire length of an oil well in real time.

The Helios Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) system from UK firm Fotech Solutions can detect vibrations along an optical fibre up to 40km in length with an accuracy of 1 metre, effectively turning it into thousands of sensors.

This could enable oil well engineers to acoustically “visualise” and record what is happening “downhole”, enabling them to improve monitoring of the well and ultimately increase productivity by spotting and dealing with problems more quickly.

BP’s technology investment arm, BP Ventures, announced today that is has made a long-term equity investment in Fotech in order to develop DAS, which has previously been used in oil and gas pipelines and reservoirs, for use at much greater depths.

Fotech CEO Chris Shannon said in a statement: ‘Downhole applications for DAS technology are still in their infancy and are currently largely scientific tools that do not provide understandable actionable information in real time for operators.

‘We are focusing our R&D on ensuring that we can deliver a product that gives end users real world benefits. The investment is crucial to our development work as the team at BP Ventures brings vital end user focus and insight.’

The company added that more high-quality real-time surveillance methods are needed to help the oil and gas industry exploit more unconventional fossil fuel sources and deploy more complex techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and floating liquefied natural gas (LNG).