Oil Well Fracture Pump Monitoring and Analysis Using LabVIEW and NI RIO Technology

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"LabVIEW has made the software development side much quicker than our past experiences in C-based programming. What most C programmers take two years to do, we can accomplish in a couple of months. We can use that time savings to get to market quicker and capitalize on our competitors’ lag time."

- Robert Stewart, CEO, Lime Instruments, LLC

The Challenge:
Building an advanced monitoring system that can survive being mounted directly to an oil well servicing pump in a rugged environment while performing advanced analysis on sensor data.

The Solution:
Using NI CompactRIO and NI Single-Board RIO hardware along with NI LabVIEW software to design a pump monitoring system that monitors the operating parameters of a reciprocating pump used in well servicing applications.

Robert Stewart, CEO - Lime Instruments, LLC

At NI Gold Alliance Partner Lime Instruments, we want to be the best packager and integrator of controls and instrumentation technology for any industry in which we compete. Our goal is to package with the best off-the-shelf hardware available and to package it in such a way that it withstands the harshest environments commonly found in the oil field. We feel that NI hardware and LabVIEW software provide the optimal solution for our application, and we have made them the backbone of our entire control system.

Other hardware solutions we considered were not able to provide the high-speed I/O and analysis to catch the momentary pressure spikes and vibration indications of these oil well service fracturing pumps. The field-programmable gate array (FPGA) and ability to perform fast Fourier transform (FFT) analysis on the data make CompactRIO, NI Single-Board RIO, and LabVIEW a perfect solution for this application.

Oil Well Monitoring System

Our oil well monitoring system is designed to monitor the performance of vital pump components during operation. Our preliminary product is focused on monitoring high-pressure fracturing pumps in well-stimulation applications. Each fracturing unit has a high horsepower diesel engine and transmission mated to a triplex or quintaplex pump. Both the engine and the transmission come equipped with an electronic interface that monitors critical functions and provides diagnostic information as the unit is running. The engine and transmission output the data they monitor via an SAE J1939 communication protocol.

Currently, pumps in this industry do not contain more than a couple of discrete sensors that monitor their critical operating parameters. Typically, discharge pressure, RPM, lube oil pressure, and lube oil temperature are monitored. Each of these parameters is measured with an individual sensor and signal cable that goes back to the main control console.

The goal of our product is to monitor these functions as well as several others and transmit that data back to the main control console via the same SAE J1939 controller area network (CAN) protocol. Our system needs to look for data characteristics outside the normal operating envelope and failure conditions. With this real-time information, operators can determine if they should discontinue operation or continue based on real performance indications from the pump. Ultimately, this system should reduce the number of pump failures as well as overall pump maintenance costs.

Rugged Deployment with CompactRIO and LabVIEW

For what we do, there is not a more capable hardware package than CompactRIO. We also like that we can develop software in LabVIEW faster than most other programming environments. LabVIEW has made the software development side much quicker than our past experiences in C-based programming. What most C programmers take two years to do, we can accomplish in a couple of months. We can use that time savings to get to market quicker and capitalize on our competitors’ lag time.

We are using the LabVIEW software platform to program the real-time processor, FPGA, and I/O with the CompactRIO system and interface to control and monitor every aspect of the well servicing and stimulation equipment commonly found in our industry. We believe that the modular I/O and the rugged CompactRIO system are perfect because they can handle the shock and vibration and wide-ranging temperatures experienced while mounted to a mobile piece of equipment that is dragged up and down oil field roads around the world.

The openness of LabVIEW and National Instruments hardware make it easy to interface to a variety of sensors, software, and protocols such as the following:

  • Sensors – Pressure transducers, magnetic pickup sensors, digital encoders, temperature sensors, nuclear densitometers, magnetic flow meters, Correollis flow meters, and so on 
  • Software – Coiled-tubing fatigue, wellbore-simulation software 
  • Operating systems – Windows XP Embedded, Windows CE, Linux®
  • Industry-specific protocols – SAE J1939, J1587, J1708; Modbus; Ethernet, 802.11; PROFIBUS

Customized Deployment With NI Single-Board RIO

Because of the small form factor and the low cost of NI Single-Board RIO, we see great value in using this hardware to provide a customized solution to our customers. With both CompactRIO and NI Single-Board RIO, we are able to offer the ability to create different form factors and price points for our monitoring systems.

Fortunately, the transition from CompactRIO to NI Single-Board RIO is a very quick and seamless process because of the standard NI reconfigurable I/O (RIO) hardware architecture and LabVIEW. NI Single-Board RIO has the same hardware architecture as CompactRIO, so we are able to reuse our LabVIEW code in our NI Single-Board RIO hardware without any major coding changes.

The Advantage of a Solution From National Instruments

We are very pleased with the quality of products and support we have received from NI. NI has handled our technical issues with urgency and followed through to help us complete our application. Everyone at NI, from support engineers to the direct sales engineers, has in-depth technical and business knowledge of their product lines. It has truly been a pleasure working with such a supportive and professional group.

Author Information:
Robert Stewart, CEO
Lime Instruments, LLC

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