Abstract

Well operators use advanced downhole telemetry systems to monitor the flow rate, temperature, and pressure inside the well. The wired telemetry tools are currently popular in the industry although these tools have cost, maintenance, and reliability issues. Acoustic waves that propagate by vibrating the pipe's body inside the well were recently considered as an alternative technology. However, the bottom segment of the production tubing is encased in concrete in many wells; a previous work showed that concrete segments attenuate the acoustic waves to impractical levels, which limits the applications of this mode of propagation.

As an alternative to vibrating the tubing body when there is a concrete segment over the pipe, this work investigates the use of the production tubing's interior as a communication medium for the acoustic waves. A testbed was designed using five segments of 7-inch production tubing to form a pipe string, a speaker to generate the acoustic waves, and a directive microphone to receive the acoustic waves propagating inside the pipe string. To study the effect of cemented pipes on acoustical wave propagation, the third pipe segment was encased in concrete. Input frequencies from 100 Hz to 2000 Hz were investigated; wave measurements were taken along the pipe string, and measurements were analyzed to extract information about the behavior of the acoustic channel.

This work shows that acoustic waves are not affected by the presence of the concrete segment. Low-frequency acoustic waves experience very little attenuation as they propagate through the interior of the pipe string, signal dispersion is not an issue for most frequencies, and delay spread measures increase as the acoustic waves propagate down the pipe. This work advises that acoustic-wave technology can be a promising cost-effective and reliable solution for wireless downhole communication systems.

Technical contributions include: characterizing the channel response to different input frequencies along the pipe string, investigating the power spectral density and signal-to-noise ratio measures, and studying the time dispersion parameters of the channel.

1. Introduction

Wireless communications is a discipline that has widespread applications in different industrial areas. The gas and oil industry is one of the recently growing areas for potential applications of wireless communications technologies. Such technologies can be used for addressing issues in exploration, drilling, and production stages. For instance, well performance and production efficiency can be enhanced by having a means to communicate between surface and downhole tools. Readings of typical well data like oil/gas flow rate, pressure, and temperature can be helpful in monitoring the performance of the wells.

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