While the world is transitioning into a greener and less-carbon-rich energy source, the fact remains that there is a growing need for exploration and production of hydrocarbons in previously untapped resources. These frontier reservoirs, while extremely hot, are prolific and make the footprint of the exploration activity much smaller than shallower drilling, which would require many more wells to deliver the same amount of hydrocarbon. These frontier wells, classified as high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) wells, are defined as wells with reservoir or bottomhole temperatures higher than 300°F and which require pressure-control equipment with a rating above 10,000 psi. HP/HT wells can be found offshore in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico, or on land—as seen recently in the Gongola Basin.

Fluid identification, which is a critical process in fluid sampling, continues to be a challenge in temperatures above 350°F. At temperatures up to 450°F, fluid identification is currently achieved by bubblepoint and compressibility measurements, which cannot quantitatively measure contamination levels of the subject sample fluid.

A possible solution to this problem would involve using pyroelectric detectors in the process of estimating a property of a downhole fluid. The method and apparatus in this approach involves exposing a fluid to modulated light downhole and sensing changes in the intensity of infrared radiation from the downhole fluid, to estimate the level of filtrate contamination and other properties.

The pyroelectric detector senses changes in the intensity of light by con-verting the transient changes in temperature of its detector and performs the spectroscopic fluid analysis by optically filtering the light allowed to impinge on it, converting the changes in temperature of the pyroelectric detector to a signal which can then be used to estimate the property of the downhole fluid.

If successfully implemented, this would enable the wireline-logging industry to develop an optical fluid analyser capable of quantitatively measuring fluid contamination levels in high-temperature (greater than 300°F) environments.


Pyroelectric infrared detectors (PIR) convert the changes in incoming infrared light to electric signals. Pyroelectric materials are characterized by having spontaneous electric polarization, which is altered by temperature changes as infrared light illuminates the elements.

Pyroelectric detectors (Fig. 1) are thermal detectors, meaning they produce a signal in response to a change in their temperature. Below a case temperature (Tc) known as the Curie point, ferroelectric materials such as lithium tantalate exhibit a large spontaneous electrical polarization. If the temperature of such a material is altered, for example by incident radiation, the polarization changes. This change in polarization may be observed as an electrical signal when electrodes are placed on opposite faces of a thin slice of the material to form a capacitor. When the polarization changes, if the external impedance is comparatively high, the charges induced in the electrodes can be made to produce a voltage across the slice. The sensor will only produce an electrical output signal when the temperature changes; that is, when the level of incident-radiation changes.

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