Simulating Deep Well Conditions at Halliburton with LabVIEW and CompactRIO

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"We chose to use NI hardware and software for this application because no other vendor can seamlessly pair the elements of an FPGA, real time, and a Windows OS."

- Dan Purvis, Optimation

The Challenge:
Upgrading Halliburton’s current control system for its manual high-pressure simulation process so that operators can run tests remotely, safely, and efficiently.

The Solution:
Developing a turnkey layout and fabrication of a new valve, panel, and control system using NI LabVIEW software and CompactRIO hardware.

Dan Purvis - Optimation

A Turnkey High-Pressure Simulation System

Extreme pressure under the Earth’s surface affects drilling tools and electronics; therefore, to prevent costly accidents, manufacturers of drilling equipment need to test these effects prior to using the equipment in the field. To verify products, it is helpful to simulate deep well conditions and subject new tool designs to pressure levels under the Earth’s crust.

At Halliburton, the current solution to test equipment involves manually simulating high pressure in the well. The manual system exposes technicians to high pressure, placing the technicians at risk because there is no separation between them and the sources of high pressure. To solve this problem, Halliburton wanted to upgrade the control system so that operators can run tests remotely, safely, and efficiently.

NI Gold Alliance Partner Optimation’s Solution

Our solution at Optimation involved developing a turnkey layout and fabrication of a new valve, panel, and control system. The system was fabricated in a cargo container and completely constructed and commissioned in Optimation’s shop in Rochester, New York. After verification of the control software, the system was installed and commissioned at Halliburton’s facility.

System Architecture

An NI CompactRIO controller is the core of the test system. Using CompactRIO as an Ethernet-based system, operators can use their building’s network to connect the test consoles and the controllers. Using resource check-in and checkout based on LabVIEW software, an unlimited number of test consoles can access the CompactRIO controller.

The field-programmable gate array (FPGA) backplane on the CompactRIO allows for high-speed signal acquisition and control and critical signal processing to occur as close to the sensor as possible. The FPGA and a real-time interface give operators high-speed interlocks, which prevent mixing of different test substances. In addition, if the Microsoft Windows OS shuts down, the system can remain in control because CompactRIO is still operating.

The new system gives operators a “heads up” display, and they can click on valves and select pump set points to create various test conditions in manual mode. Automatic mode allows operators to run preprogrammed recipes, which are series of pressure or valve states that the system must execute to carry out a test. These recipes are created by Optimation engineers. Then, the recipe controls pump set points and valve positions in a preset manner.

We developed our recipe configuration software as a stand-alone application running in the office environment. This software supports the setup and storage of the various recipe steps. Another advanced feature in the recipe generation software is for safety. This feature allows the engineer or technician to build a recipe at his or her desk and simulate it before running an actual test, ensuring that each recipe is correct before actual use. After the recipe is created, it can be stored and run on the actual system.

In the software, one main screen shows the camera view, a chart of the data, a process flow diagram that allows operators to click on valves and set points, and a recipe area that allows operators to load and run recipes in automatic mode.

Data can be acquired at rates from 0.1 Hz to 100 Hz, and the operator has the ability to view the data in digital form on the process and watch trends in a graphical format. We used FPGA code provided by the NI systems engineering group for some of the noise reduction routines. This was instrumental in cleaning the pressure signals and ensuring project success.

Hardware Design

The test system is capable of pressuring test articles up to 30,000 psi. Automatic valves allow the user or a recipe to set flow paths on the test system. High-pressure metering valves are controlled via stepper motors to give the system automatic bleed control. Any of the six lines can be bled independently. We built the entire system in a container designed for easy access to all equipment.

In addition, a new inertion system controls the flow of nitrogen to Halliburton’s downstream chamber. The throttling valve, controls, piping, and oxygen analyzer in the chamber are hooked up to the control panel, which controls the flow of nitrogen in the system. Control is based on the percentage of oxygen in the chamber as measured by Halliburton’s analyzer.

The control room is isolated from the test area with a thick metal plate, protecting technicians from high pressure exposure. In addition to data monitoring, technicians can view actual test conditions with the Internet protocol (IP) cameras. All control and data acquisition is performed via Ethernet, keeping the technicians completely out of harm’s way when the tests are running.

Various systems at Halliburton’s site are standardizing on this architectural design, and the company hopes to cross-train technicians from one system to another in the future. According to an engineering test manager at Halliburton, the company had been down the road of using different subcontractors on the same projects, and there were always gaps the other companies could not get closed up; for example, one system would not work well with the next. Using Optimation, who built a system using NI tools, was a much cleaner process for Halliburton.

With NI tools, users can clean signals up with the FPGA, protect against dangerous conditions in real time, and develop a user interface that is useful to technicians and attractive to management. We chose to use NI hardware and software for this application because no other vendor can seamlessly pair the elements of an FPGA, real time, and a Windows OS.

Author Information:
Dan Purvis

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