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Lateral thinking

Downhole water detection


Water is a significant by-product of the extraction of oil and gas – in some cases, accounting for up to 95% of the fluids produced.

The resulting reduction in revenues, coupled with the costs of water treatment and disposal, can make a well uneconomic – and even stop production altogether.

But conventional techniques for monitoring the production profile of a well – the various fluid flows in and out – are less effective in the increasing number of horizontal wells. Some lateral thinking was called for.


Existing techniques involve monitoring the vertical temperature profile of a well, using either a sensor inserted into the well or a fibre-optic distributed temperature sensor (DTS).

This temperature log is then compared with the natural geothermal gradient of the Earth to predict the fluid flow profile.

But this doesn’t work for a horizontal well – so we’ve developed a novel technique based on radio-frequency measurements.

Our solution uses the differences in physical properties of hydrocarbons and water to determine the composition of fluid flowing past an external sensor.


Our monitoring technology can potentially be installed at multiple locations in a horizontal well – to pinpoint the zones producing excess water.

This allows an operator to isolate problems, take action to solve them – and restore optimum production with minimum delay.

Our technology could be incorporated in existing in-well instrumentation – such as pressure/temperature gauges – and use the same power and communications infrastructure.

The innovative solution could also help other industries where continuous monitoring of water content is a requirement. It’s just one example of how our multidisciplinary skills can bridge a technology gap.