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Chevron has installed Emerson Smart Wireless networks at its San Ardo oil field to monitor its steam injection process and measure down-hole well pressures.

The networks improved safety and productivity and reduced wastewater discharge.

Chevron installed Emerson Rosemount wireless pressure transmitters at eight stations and on multiple steam lines leading to out-of-service wells undergoing steam injection.

Chevron switched to wireless monitoring after realising steam usage was much higher than previously recorded.

Paul Kinne, the head operator of Chevron, said: ‘The Smart Wireless transmitter in the demo uncovered that we were injecting four times as much steam as needed into this particular well.’ The over-steaming created more wastewater, which had to be pumped from the well and treated before being discharged into wetlands draining into the Salinas River.

The over-steaming also meant the company used more natural gas than necessary to produce the steam.

Wireless technology has improved safety and maintenance and travel costs at the oil field.

Personnel no longer need to visit the injection wells to collect data from traditional chart recorders or to check instruments for correct operation.

The robust, self-organising wireless network includes a Smart Wireless gateway, which communicates reliable data to the oil field’s control room via an Ethernet network connection.

Kinne said: ‘Operators no longer need to make and break high pressure and temperature connections, so their safety is improved.’ Production wells are periodically taken out of service for several days in the San Ardo field so steam can be injected into the formation.

The steam heats the heavy crude and eases its flow to the pump.

Chevron estimates that the incorrect steaming measurements on the one well lost the company 14 production days on four occasions each year.

The excess steam could also have adversely affected oil flow within the formation, leading to further production loss.

A traditional hard-wired monitoring network would have been expensive to install at this location because of the large distances it would need to cover.

In contrast, installing and commissioning the wireless network was quick and easy.

Kinne added: ‘It only took three hours to install a wireless instrument, configure and establish the network IP address and make the Ethernet connection to the control room.

‘We eliminated the excess steam usage and now have a reliable steam injection measurement at eight stations.’ Chevron saved USD60,000 in installation costs by choosing the Emerson Smart Wireless battery-powered network instead of monitoring devices with wires.

The company had been using a remote telemetry unit (RTU) wireless system to collect the data.

Each helium-filled capillary that extended into a well was connected to a pressure transmitter, which was wired to a pole-mounted radio.

All the radios and transmitters required wired power supplies.

This RTU system became obsolete and Chevron needed a reliable replacement.

Mohammad Heidari, an automation engineer at Chevron, said: ‘By choosing a Smart Wireless application that operates on battery power, we spent USD30,000 on installation instead of the USD90,000 it would have cost to install an RTU wireless system similar to the one we had been using.’ In the new self-organising network, 11 capillaries are now connected to pole-mounted wireless Rosemount pressure transmitters, which are battery operated.

Chevron uses the data collected for its proprietary oil formation calculations, including determining steam injection requirements, oil flow patterns and new well locations.

Heidari added: ‘Maintenance is also easier with the new wireless system.

‘We don’t have to worry about calibrating the instruments because they send a digital signal versus analogue.

‘The many wired connections in the old system meant there were many more potential points of failure.’ A Smart Wireless gateway collects pressure data from the monitoring wells and sends it to Chevron’s PLCs.

The distances covered extend up to two miles.

Heidari added: ‘The new wireless system is reliable and has passed our rigorous IT security review.

‘Installation was easy and we haven’t had any problems.’

Emerson Process Management

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