Wireless oil detector cuts exploration costs

A prospecting device using wireless technology that could cut the cost of oil exploration has been developed by a UK technology specialist Generics.

The company has created the device – which can detect the likelihood of oil in the ground – to aid global exploration firms in geophysical exploration. It will also have applications in other geological activities, such as mining and research into earthquakes and volcanoes.

The technology is based on geophone sensors. These are velocity measuring devices which are placed at points in the ground to read reflected signals caused by a controlled explosion.

The information gained by these sensors is then used to map the sub-surface geology of an area, telling exploration firms where oil is likely to be.

Generics has developed the lightweight device for Scottish-based oil industry technology specialist Vibtech. Dan Timson, project manager for the technology at Generics, said the real benefit of the device is that unlike all previous systems used by the industry it does not need wires. ‘Because this is wireless it means the task of data acquisition can be achieved much more cheaply, so it has very real commercial benefits,’ he said.

Although the device was developed primarily for use in the oil and gas industry, Timson said the technology is likely to have applications in any activity where companies need to acquire data over a large area, as it will be preferable to having lots of wires everywhere.

For instance, it could be used in measurements of natural seismic activity, to probe the earth’s structure.

Generics specialises in developing wireless devices for industries which have not yet exploited the technology, said Timson.

The company has now produced a working prototype of the device. Proving the technology works has helped Vibtech to secure a second round of funding to develop the technology further. ‘The prototype has given investors confidence that the development can be taken through to commercialisation.’

Generics is now producing a second model, and will soon begin a pilot manufacturing phase. If this stage is successful, the company will then start commercialising the technology, said Timson.

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