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RFID Automates Fracking Interventions for Weatherford

The oilfield services company is deploying LF RFID readers in its drill tools and tags that drop into oil wells, to trigger such actions as closing or opening valves to allow the flow of fluids.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 24, 2017

Global oilfield services company Weatherford has expanded its existing RFID technology programs to manage the operation of downhole tools during the hydraulic fracturing and stimulation processes. For nearly a decade, the company has been developing radio frequency identification to control downhole tools, which are deployed into a well during drilling and completion operations (see Oilfield Services Company Embeds RFID in Drilling Reamers and Weatherford Enhances Downhole Drilling Operations Via RFID).

During the past two years, Weatherford has developed a new system that employs RFID to remotely control hydraulic fracturing processes by triggering the opening and closing of valves to control the movements of fluids as much as 5 miles below the surface or underwater.

Weatherford's Euan Murdoch
The system reduces intervention costs and risk by cutting the amount of time required to operate the highly expensive equipment traditionally used to manipulate downhole tools. What can take two days with manually actuated tools, says Euan Murdoch, Weatherford's RFID completions product line manager, can be accomplished within a matter of a few hours with RFID.

Weatherford is one of the largest oilfield services companies providing technologies and services for formation evaluation, well construction, completion, stimulation and production.

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique by which rock is fractured by pumping down pressurized liquid to stimulate oil or natural gas reservoirs. To accomplish this, companies inject fracking fluid that can include water and sand into a reservoir, thereby creating additional cracks through which oil or gas can flow.

The AutoFrac system uses passive 125 KHz low-frequency (LF) RFID. During the fracking process, service providers must insert mechanical tools into the wells, and those tools accomplish such tasks as opening or closing valves and sleeves that control the passage of fluids from the well to the surface, or in the other direction. These valves and sleeves are often very far from the surface. The use of RFID to actuate downhole tools enables personnel at the surface to address a specific tool without affecting the other tools in the string, or to operate a tool after a specific delay period. When tags are not able to be circulated, operators use a sequence of pressure cycles in the injected fluids to accomplish the switching of valves or opening and closing. Combining these technologies creates the ideal operational logic to maximize the well's productivity.

Weatherford has developed its own RFID-based solution, Murdoch explains, which has been deployed in the North Sea and elsewhere.

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