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20 August 2013

Remotely analysing oil and gas offshore

New technology from Cambridge Consultants can detect contamination in real time

Innovative product development and technology firm Cambridge Consultants has developed new particle analysis technology for the oil and gas industry. It will measure, in real time, droplets of oil or particles of sand and wax in produced fluids at offshore and remote production sites. This has the potential to allow produced water to be safely reinjected into a well or disposed of overboard.

Produced water is a sizeable by-product of the extraction of oil and gas. Modern oil wells produce as much as 10 barrels of water for each barrel of oil. Treating and disposing of this water is a major expense for many operators and, in some cases, production is limited by how much water can be handled. “There is a general need to be able to check for the levels of sand, oil and additives in produced water that is to be reinjected into the well,” said Dr Frances Metcalfe, associate director, oil and gas, at Cambridge Consultants.

“If a well exceeds certain limits, for example due to a failure in processing equipment, particulates can block pores in the rock, causing production to stop – and even render the well beyond economic use. There is therefore a real need to be able to analyse very tiny droplets and particles in a pipeline in real time in order to speed up reaction time to correct potential issues.”

The patented technology developed by Cambridge Consultants uses a novel combination of optical measurements and signal processing techniques to measure the size distribution of droplets ranging from sub-micron to tens of microns in diameter at typical production flow velocities. The technology uses hardware that lends itself to being deployed online in remote locations. From there, the results can be sent directly to an operator to allow remedial action to be taken before a situation becomes critical.

Currently, produced water quality is usually assessed by taking a sample and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. This is time consuming – so, by the time an issue has been identified, the well may already be irreversibly damaged.

The new technology has the potential to be affordable enough to allow numerous devices to be deployed at multiple locations. In the future, such a system could also include a local alarm that would flag up a potential problem and send a control signal to fix an issue or turn off a valve. Potential applications include wet gas, produced water and polymer flooding, MEG injection or scale monitoring.

Cambridge Consultants has a long track record of transferring insights and solutions it has developed between industry sectors. The particle detection technology is the latest example of how it has applied its expertise in a particular field – in this case, characterisation of drug delivery devices – to tackle challenges in the oil and gas industry.

The Cambridge Consultants oil and gas team will be available to discuss the new particle detection technology at the SPE Offshore Europe Conference and Exhibition, September 3-6, in Aberdeen, UK, booth 4 on stand 3B175.

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 700 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, oil and gas, and wireless communications.

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R&D services which offers its clients a new way to innovate. Altran works alongside its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. In 2015, the Altran group generated revenues of €1.945bn. With a headcount of more than 27,000 employees, Altran is present in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit

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