RFID Technology for Deepwater Drilling and Completions Challenges

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Deepwater operators continually face technical and environmental challenges to drilling and completing wells safely and efficiently. To address these challenges, the industry has used radio-frequency-identification (RFID) technology to reduce risk, rig time, and nonproductive time and to perform operations that traditional tools cannot. This paper describes criteria for selecting RFID-enabled tools rather than traditional tools, integration of RFID tools with operations, and value-added features enabled by RFID. The complete paper also presents contingency, safety, and risk-assessment factors and case studies.

RFID Background

RFID is a method of communication using radio-frequency electromagnetic fields. Information is stored within RFID tags and is transferred to a reader when the two are close to each other. There are two types of tags: active tags, which contain their own energy source, and passive tags, which are energized by the reader as they pass by. A typical passive tag used in the tools described in this paper is shown in Fig. 1. This tag contains a transponder circuit and an antenna that receives signals from the reader. The transponder is programmed with a unique identification number and instructions for the reader.

Fig. 1—Typical passive RFID tags, 0.91 in. long and 0.15 in. in diameter.


The reader contains a receiving antenna and a power source (Fig. 2) that generates an electromagnetic field. The field generated by the antenna powers the tag when it is within range and enables the tag to transmit the stored instructions. Because a passive RFID tag is powered by the reader antenna, it does not require batteries or an internal energy source, which makes the passive tags less costly and smaller than active tags. Receiving antennas can be programmed to respond only to specific tag identification numbers, and any tag passing by the receiver without these numbers will be ignored.

Fig. 2—Passive-RFID-tag reader containing a receiving antenna and internal power source.

Transferring RFID Technology to Deep Water

RFID technology has been integrated into drilling and completions applications. One application of RFID technology is for drilling automation and drillpipe identification. RFID tags attached to drillpipe identify individual-joint dimensions, track inspection information, and allow inventory tracking. These tags can be used also to create an automatic pipe tally as drillpipe joints are run in hole past a reader located below the rotary. RFID technology has moved also into cementing. RFID-activated port collars have been designed recently for use in a drilling-with-liner application in the North Sea to cement a 9⅝-in. liner and eliminate the need to open the ports mechanically by means of a long inner string.

Incorporating RFID technology into operations has brought benefits to drilling and completions. Using RFID tags to operate downhole tools eliminates the need for mechanical intervention and reduces rig time by streamlining operations. RFID tags are readable in typical drilling and completion fluids such as mud, seawater, brine, and sand and proppant mixes. Because RFID tools can be programmed to respond only to tags that contain unique identification numbers, multiple RFID tools can be run in line on the same string and each tool will function only when actuated by its specifically programmed tag.

RFID underreamers can also be beneficial in applications where multiple actuations are required, no restrictions on the inside diameter (ID) are desired, or rathole lengths need to be minimized.

RFID Downhole-Tool Systems for Drilling and Completions

The implementation of RFID technology within the stimulation environment has a number of significant technology hurdles that must be crossed. Stimulation applications typically involve high flow rates and bottomhole pressures, large temperature swings, and debris-laden ­fluids. These all typically cause problems for downhole tools. To address these issues, two tools were designed: an RFID-activated stimulation sleeve that can be opened remotely and an RFID-operated flapper valve that can be closed remotely to act as a barrier between zones and then can be opened remotely to allow well cleanup and, ultimately, hydrocarbon production.

RFID-Controlled Stimulation Sleeve. The RFID-controlled stimulation sleeve can be used in a proppant-fracture environment. It is a single-shot tool controlled by an atmospheric control module (ACM). The hydraulically balanced sleeve opens only when the ACM is actuated.

The tool is run in hole in the closed position, allowing circulation through the liner to be maintained during installation. The tool is actuated by means of an RFID tag, pressure cycle, or timer. The electronics actuate the ACM, and hydrostatic pressure is applied to one side of the hydraulic sleeve. This drives the sleeve open. The tool has been designed to be highly tolerant of debris. The hydraulic system is self-contained within the tool. There are no springs, and the number of moving parts exposed to the wellbore is minimized.

RFID-Controlled Flapper Valve. The RFID-controlled flapper valve is a remotely operated flapper-based omni­directional barrier valve. Although it is a single-shot tool that uses ACM activation, there are two ACMs that allow the flapper to be closed remotely, typically by means of RFID tags, and then opened again through pressure cycles or flowing pressure cycles.

The RFID-controlled flapper valve is typically run in hole in the open position, in which the flapper is held behind a flow tube. This keeps the valve out of the flow path and removes any issues with debris in the well. When the tool is operated, the first ACM is actuated. This allows hydrostatic pressure to move the upper flow tube up and releases the flapper into the wellbore. As a result of a simple piston arrangement, the direction of the upper flow tube is then changed and it exerts force on the flapper, forming a seal on a lower flow tube. This provides a barrier from above that can be used to set hydraulic tools or perform stimulation operations.

When the stimulation operations are complete, the second ACM is actuated to open the flapper. This allows hydrostatic pressure to be applied to the lower flow tube, and it moves down. Driven by the upper flow tube, the flapper pivots down and moves back behind the upper flow tube as it opens. This then results in a smooth throughbore configuration with no exposed components.

RFID-Controlled Drilling Reamer. The RFID-controlled drilling reamer is a concentric mass-balance underreamer capable of enlarging the borehole below casing restrictions. The RFID-controlled drilling reamer was designed to be operated multiple times on demand without restricting the ID of the tool. The versatile reamer can simultaneously drill and enlarge when used in conjunction with rotary-steerable systems or rotary bottomhole assemblies. The reamer can be used also to underream existing boreholes and to open selective zones for ­solid-expandable installations.

The reamer is electronically actuated using RFID technology, which provides virtually unlimited actuations and deactuations on demand. A small yet durable RFID tag is deployed at surface into the drillpipe ID at surface level and is circulated downhole with the drilling fluid. The tag transmits instructions to an electronic reader on the reamer controller, and the cutter blocks extend fully from the reamer body. Another RFID tag is circulated to retract the cutter blocks.

RFID-Controlled Circulation Sub. The RFID-controlled circulation sub is a remotely actuated circulation device that facilitates drilling and hole-cleanup operations. The drilling circulation sub uses RFID technology to communicate open and close commands. When the operator needs to move the sub from the closed position to either of the two open positions, an RFID tag is deployed from the surface and circulated internally through the sub. The antenna receives the RFID signal, and a hydraulic power unit moves the sleeve into the appropriate position. Ports open and allow circulation directly into the annulus to increase annular velocities to aid cleanup. Flow also can be split between the annulus and drillpipe.

RFID Reverse-Cementing Tools. A reverse-circulation placement technique is an option for cementing when a reduction in equivalent circulating densities is required downhole.

To apply reverse cementing in deep water, fluids are pumped down a work string and diverted into the annulus below the riser and blowout preventer. Returns are taken up the inside of the casing and then diverted back into the annulus. RFID-actuated, subsurface ­reverse-cementing tools were developed to facilitate this unique flow path, as well as a conventional flow path, and to provide a means to switch flow directions per operational requirements.

The RFID subsurface reverse-­cementing tool system includes three tool designs: a circulation tool, a crossover tool, and an RFID-controlled flapper valve.

The RFID-actuated circulation tool provides the ability to continue circulation into the work-string annulus selectively without flowing fluid past the depleted zone and without displacing the cement in place. The circulation tool has two positions: a neutral position for circulation down the work string and a bypass position to circulate into the annulus.

The RFID-actuated crossover tool provides the ability to switch the flow path selectively from the tool ID to the annulus above a liner-hanger-running tool and to bypass returns from the tool ID to the upper annulus.

The RFID-controlled flapper valve has a design similar to that of the flapper used in the RFID-controlled hydraulic-fracture system, and it operates in a similar manner.

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 181012, “Leveraging RFID Technology for Deepwater Drilling and Completions Challenges,” by Euan Murdoch, SPE, Eddie Valverde, SPE, Rupa Sharma, Crystal Wreden, SPE, Alex Goodwin, and Jonathan Osei-Kuffour, Weatherford, and Kyle Kimmitt, Cornelis Loonstra, Babak Ghaempanah, and Deandre Reagins, Shell, prepared for the 2016 SPE Intelligent Energy International Conference and Exhibition, Aberdeen, 6–8 September. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

RFID Technology for Deepwater Drilling and Completions Challenges

01 April 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 4


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