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Rugged Tags Survive Deep-Sea Test

Passive RFID tags deployed at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico for four months continued to operate once retrieved, according to the technology's developer, Wescorp Energy.
By Beth Bacheldor
May 29, 2008Wescorp Energy, a manufacturer of systems designed to help companies in the oil and gas industry manage and track their operations and equipment, has completed a test of passive UHF EPC Gen 2 RFID tags that were affixed to equipment deployed at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, 12,000 feet beneath the surface, for four months in late 2007. When the tags were retrieved, the company claims, handheld interrogators were still able to read each tag's unique ID number.

The test was part of Wescorp's ongoing development of its Intelligent Field Resource Management (IFRM) solution. Announced about six months ago, the service is an RFID-driven solution designed to help companies track their industrial and oil-field equipment.

Scott Shemwell
"The service answers the three most important questions those in oil and gas field operations and maintenance (O&M) have about this equipment: What do I have? When did I get it? Where is it?" explains Scott Shemwell, Wescorp's chief operating officer. "These three questions are the heart of operations and maintenance concerns regarding expensive equipment and scarce material. Whether the field superintendent or the chief operating officer, decision makers are faced with significant global challenges when it comes to field operations."

At present, many companies typically attempt to answer these questions and track that information via such manual processes as writing down metrics and equipment information on paper, or perhaps keying the data into a spreadsheet. Bar codes have not proven useful in tracking equipment, Shemwell says, because they are often rubbed off during equipment usage or painted over during maintenance—two scenarios that render bar codes unreadable.

The IFRM service employs what's known as "fit-for-purpose" technology—typically a combination of technologies put together to meet a specific need, and to optimize overall drilling efficiency. Wescorp's engineers assess a customer's O&M requirements, then configure the technology to meet those needs. During the assessment, Shemwell says, the engineers analyze the company's operational challenges, then design and implement agreed-upon solutions, developing operations and maintenance processes, as well as designing, fabricating, installing, operating and maintaining the systems necessary to optimize oil and gas field performance.

Configuration and customization involve determining and tailoring the RFID tags, including picking the best frequency for the job, and can extend to a company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, so that software can receive and act on data collected by the RFID-enabled service. Designed to be secure and unique to each customer, the solution comes with a Web-enabled information gathering and sharing system that companies can utilize to access data about their equipment.

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