Saturday, June 23, 2018
Home/Current Issue >  Partnering > 

RFID in the Hole Survives Severe Drilling Conditions

Merrick Systems Inc., a software innovator known for its upstream oil and gas production products, developed an asset tracking system consisting of its patented RFID Diamond Tags, including the new High Temperature High Pressure (HTHP) Tags, ruggedized handheld computers, tag readers and its DynaCap software. The system was put in place to offer oil drilling operations more accurate information with greater efficiency than had previously been possible.

The asset tracking system is designed for fast, accurate and consistent collection of information on downhole equipment for drilling, work over and completion operations. It provides rig operations, inspection services, storage yards and the transportation sector with immediate access to component information.

Merrick Systems chose Victrex® PEEK polymer, a high performance thermoplastic, for the tag housing containing the RFID technology, because of the material's ability to withstand the extreme temperatures, and physical and chemical conditions of the downhole environment.

Reduces Overhead
According to Ian Binmore, Director of Drilling Products at Merrick Systems, "The pipe measuring method used on rigs today requires three to five people to measure, manually document and calculate pipe tallies. Merrick's asset tracking system reduces this overhead to one-person scanning pipes with a handheld computer that automatically provides the pipe tally and more. This kind of automation saves critical time on the rig floor."

Real-time knowledge of drill string stresses and strains can provide a significant reduction in catastrophic failure of equipment such as drill pipe, casing, production tubing, gas-lift valves, etc. The level of detail provided by the tags can improve understanding of the limitations of downhole components and help operators better manage the risks of using a drill string close to its safe design limits.

Radio Data Transfer
Merrick's RFID Diamond Tags are quite small, ranging from about the size of a small button to about the size of a bottle cap. They can be mechanically mounted, epoxied, or screwed into components — depending on such criteria as available wall thickness, component diameter and the intended use of the component.

Tags are embedded in downhole tubulars such as drill pipe, casing, production tubing and other BHA (Bottom Hole Assembly) components. They transfer data on a low-level radio signal to nearby reading devices and can be installed on components either at the manufacturing location, or retrofitted to existing components in the field at the time of equipment inspection. Once the tags have been mounted, ruggedized scanning tools read them and provide relevant data to the system's software, which then provides operations and logistics personnel with instant knowledge about the equipment. The tags collect information on each component before, during, and after it is run into a well. According to Binmore, "The more knowledge that service companies and drilling crews have about equipment before it goes into the hole, the less likely that a costly delay or a catastrophic situation should happen. The only way to confidently know this information is to be able to track the components — and our tags enable that to occur."

Shaped Housing
Previous techniques for mounting RFID tags included simply epoxying them to steel. "These techniques typically result in failure," said Binmore adding that "they can also present a danger to personnel if pressure gets trapped behind the tag while pulling equipment out of a well." He continued, "We needed a housing that could be mechanically shaped to prevent pressure buildup while withstanding the downhole conditions and providing a mechanical mounting."

Stringent Requirements
Merrick's material requirements for the tags included the ability to withstand the high pressures and temperatures of the downhole environment, strength, corrosion resistance, acceptability in the industry, moldability, expansion coefficients, brittleness, abrasive resistance, epoxy bondability, dielectric properties, and long term stability, including resistance to deterioration under UV exposure. "We found that VICTREX PEEK polymer was the best material available as it met all of our design requirements," said Binmore. "In addition, it met our requirements for a material that could be manufactured in bulk to provide quantities of product at a price point that would promote wide adoption of the technology." Victrex PEEK polymer is a product of Victrex Polymer Solutions, a leading manufacturer of high-performance materials for a wide range of industries worldwide. With a continuous operating temperature of 260°C (500°F), the polymer can withstand the higher well temperatures in the oil and gas industry. "In the deep well environment," explained Bill Pernice, Pipes Market Leader-Americas at Victrex, "It is not uncommon to find temperatures of between 180°C (356°F) and 200°C (392°F) in the presence of hydrogen sulfide, methane, carbon dioxide, water/brine, and crude oil." It is the unique combination of properties that makes the Victrex polymer an ideal replacement for metal and other plastics in the oil and gas industry said Pernice. In addition to its superior temperature resistance, he said it exhibits "excellent chemical and wear resistance, exceptional strength and dimensional stability."

Tag Reliability
RFID tags have been in use for quite some time in the drilling industry, but have had a less than stellar performance history, noted Binmore. In the past, the problem has been the reliability of the tags while sustaining the high temperatures, high pressures and well-documented severe conditions during a drilling operation. "We are not the only company offering RFID tags," said Binmore. "However, our RFID Diamond Tags are the only tags proven to survive sustained temperatures up to 200°C (400°F), pressures up to 2070 Bar (30,000 psi)." Using a well thought out strategy that includes tag design, the use of the Victrex polymer, special epoxies and tag installation methods that will endure during sustained drilling operations, Merrick was able to create a tag that can survive the extreme physical and chemical environments that the tags routinely encounter in a downhole environment and is now offering this tag to other industries with rugged environments including marine, aerospace, industrial operations and mining. "Victrex has been integral in the development of a product that works," added Binmore. "Together, Merrick Systems and Victrex have turned it into a valued working product, at a price point that the industry can rapidly accept."

Contact: Victrex Polymer Solutions, 300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 120, West Conshohocken, PA 19428 800-842-8739 or 484-342-6001 fax: 484-342-6002 E-mail: Web:

search login