Halliburton Uses NI CompactDAQ to Develop a Highly Reliable and Durable Ultrasonic Cement Analyzer

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"National Instruments is a well-known supplier of data acquisition systems, and NI CompactDAQ was the best and most reliable option for our stand-alone UCA."

- Rick Bradshaw, Halliburton

The Challenge:
Designing a rugged, stand-alone ultrasonic cement analyzer capable of controlling and monitoring temperature and pressure in one compact, portable unit.

The Solution:
Using the modularity and off-the-shelf simplicity of NI CompactDAQ to build a highly functional and versatile data acquisition (DAQ) system.

Rick Bradshaw - Halliburton


In the oil and gas exploration industry, cement is often used in the drilling process to secure well casings in place after a hole is drilled. The well bores are often thousands of feet deep, and it is important to monitor the curing rate of the cement to ensure that it is solidified before drilling resumes. An ultrasonic cement analyzer (UCA) is used in field labs and at drill sites to test cement slurry samples under simulated pressure and temperature conditions to determine the initial curing rate of the sample.

At Fann Instruments, part of Halliburton, we have been working on designing a stand-alone UCA for our applications. Our traditional UCA uses a series of autoclaves connected to a common pressure source, with the data on the cement curing rate read back to a separate central computer.

We needed a stand-alone solution that would contain pressure and temperature sources as well as the computer to control those sources and store recorded data in one compact unit. After considering several options, we chose NI CompactDAQ to help us develop this new stand-alone UCA.

Off-the-Shelf Functionality

The primary benefit of using NI CompactDAQ is the off-the-shelf functionality it provides. For engineers, using products off the shelf is always easier than creating tools in-house. Our original system used custom designs, requiring long development time and presenting significant limitations in terms of hardware and software reuse when we moved from one machine to another. Because of the modularity of NI CompactDAQ, adding functionality to the UCA for a custom machine is as simple as plugging in a new module. The new UCA uses an embedded industrial PC, so the standard USB connectivity of NI CompactDAQ eliminated the need for external controllers or interface cards. Additionally, by using National Instruments LabVIEW to develop our software, we were able to significantly reduce our development time.

It was important that we choose a common platform that we could use across our range of instrument lines so we could go from machine to machine and have a common backplane. The direct connectivity of NI CompactDAQ gives us a much more serviceable instrument and higher reliability. When we are working on a machine, we can simply unplug the connector from the NI CompactDAQ module and replace the module if it fails. This also eliminates the need for other point-to-point wiring because the connection goes right to the system. This eliminates the need for other components by having intermediate connections.

Using NI CompactDAQ, we can control the temperature, pressure, and ramp profiles and perform other tasks not possible on individual autoclaves. We can also take this new, stand-alone UCA into the field, directly to the site; it would have been extremely difficult to transport the whole system before.

By designing our UCA with NI CompactDAQ, we eliminated the cost of designing in-house hardware. NI CompactDAQ also has the potential to save us weeks of time on new products. Furthermore, many of our instruments require customer-specific functionality, so it is important to have a data acquisition system that is flexible enough to adapt to a wide range of I/O requirements. With the modularity of NI CompactDAQ, we can change from one machine to another without designing our own circuit boards, which in low volumes is not economical.

National Instruments is a well-known supplier of data acquisition systems, and NI CompactDAQ was the best and most reliable option for our stand-alone UCA. Some of our equipment stays in the field for 30 to 50 years, so it is important that we work with companies with proven track records that will be around for years to come. Not only do we anticipate using NI CompactDAQ for future instrument designs, but we have instruments in the field that we plan to bring in and retrofit with NI CompactDAQ.

Author Information:
Rick Bradshaw

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