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AXON Energy Acquires Merrick Systems' RFID Product Line

The reorganization of the two companies—both owned by HitecVision—enables AXON to provide an oil-and-gas industry solution consisting of LF and UHF tags, an LF-UHF handheld reader and software to manage the collected data.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 19, 2013

AXON Energy Products has acquired Houston oil and gas production services company Merrick Systems Inc.'s RFID product portfolio of rugged passive low-frequency (LF) tags and related intellectual property, which will now be marketed by the company's subsidiary, AXON Tubular Products. The acquisition includes all of Merrick Systems' RFID-based technology and assets, and enables AXON to provide solutions supporting both LF and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology to RFID end users within the oil and gas industry.

Prior to the acquisition, AXON Tubular Products provided passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tags, readers and software, while Merrick marketed ruggedized 125 kHz passive LF RFID tags for the same market. With the acquisition, AXON Tubular Products intends to offer both LF and UHF passive tags (including Merrick's Diamond LF RFID tag suite), while read data culled from any of the tags can be managed by AXON's A-360 Suite software. AXON is also developing a handheld reader that will enable users to interrogate both UHF and LF tags employed during drilling and well operations.

AXON's product line includes rugged UHF RFID tags capable of being embedded in tool joints (shown here) and other oil industry equipment. The company also sells Juniper Systems' Mesa Rugged Notepad, used in conjunction with ID Blue's reader.

AXON's parent is HitecVision, an investment firm specializing in businesses serving the oil and gas industry. HitecVision, which is based in Norway and maintains an office in Houston, acquired Merrick Systems last year, and Merrick and AXON are thus under the same ownership. The goal for HitecVision, according to Daniel Pacheco, AXON Tubular Products' president, is to "provide the industry with the best industry-leading RFID technology systems and support by combining the capabilities of both firms." Pacheco declines to describe the terms of the deal.

AXON, also headquartered in Houston, is a global oilfield equipment company specializing in well operation, drilling and pressure products, rig concept and design, and downhole and tubular products, as well as RFID tag products and software management. The company was founded in 2009 to serve the oil and gas industry, and launched its AXON Tubular Products division in 2011, in order to provide drill pipe connectors and RFID product solutions that its customers (operators, drilling contractors and service companies) could utilize to track assets, including those sold by AXON. The firm sells ruggedized RFID tags intended for use on surface, subsea and downhole assets, including drills and pipes. AXON Tubular Products also sells other third-party RFID offerings, including active RFID and sensing tags from Identec Solutions, and a variety of handheld devices, such as Juniper Systems' Mesa Rugged Notepad, used in conjunction with IDBlue's Bluetooth-based wireless high-frequency (HF) or UHF RFID readers.

Merrick Systems also produced ruggedized RFID tags for managing assets in oil and gas operations, but its tags operated in the LF band (see Tough RFID Tag Strikes Oil). LF tags generally are smaller than the UHF versions, but also have a shorter read range. Merrick's Diamond RFID tag suite, designed to survive sustained pressures of up to 30,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) and temperatures of up to 204 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit), can be read through drilling mud, diesel fuels, oils, sea water and cement without degradation to scanning distance and reliability, the company reports. The tags range in size from that of a small button to the approximate size of a bottle cap. Merrick Systems no longer offers RFID products or services, and will instead focus on field operations and production accounting software for the oil and gas industries.

Most drill sites have a need for both LF and UHF tags, Pacheco explains, and AXON thus intends to offer technology to end users using both frequencies in a single asset-tracking system. LF tags are small enough that they can be fitted on small downhole pipes and tools as small as about 2 inches in diameter. On the other hand, UHF tags such as those made by AXON are suited for larger-diameter drill-string components. As a result of the company's Merrick acquisition, AXON's customers will be able to utilize a single handheld or fixed reader to capture data from both types of tags, and then forward that information to the A-360 Suite software via a Wi-Fi connection.

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