Optical fiber sensor technology has been used in oil and gas companies since 1990 for monitoring temperature and pressure in order to improve safety and raise production. Also, for many years companies have been collecting big quantities of data in order to know what lies behind the surface and how to bring it out.
But what has been the role of optical fiber during the current oil crisis?
During the past months, oil prices have dropped more than 70% since June 2014, from over 100$ per barrel to under 30$ in the last week. The plunge in the oil prices is caused by the rise in the barrels production, USA has doubled its domestic production, Saudi oil is competing in Asian markets and Canada and Iraq exports are also rising, even Russians keep pumping despite the country economic crisis.
The main reason for the rise in production has been the increase in fracking operations, which have been the most affected from the plunge in oil prices, since they have dropped below production prices. At least 250,000 oil workers have lost their job and it is estimated half of the industry could disappear.
Oil companies deal with large quantities of data in order to make technical decisions, using sensors that collect and transmit data, along with new analytic tools and advanced storage capabilities that allows producers to gather detailed data in real time, at lower costs and from areas that were inaccessible in the past, which makes it possible to improve plant’s work.
And as those big quantities of data need to be transmitted in real time, they require high-quality networks that can just be deployed with optical fiber.
As engineer Glenn R. McColpin wrote in the American Oil and Gas Reporter, using fiber optic distributing sensing provides operators the ability to see and hear what’s happening below the surface, making it possible to track fluid and proppant in real time as they move through the well.
According to the paper Big Data analytics in oil and gas fiber optic improves the way companies manage the process of drilling and connecting a well because it allows to transmit microseismic 3D imaging with reduced lag time, which improves delivery performance and production from 6% to 8%.
According the 2015 Photonic Sensor Consortium Market Survey Report published by Information Gatekeepers and Light Wave Ventures, fiber optic sensor market has grown for less than $200 million in 2006 to $600 million nowadays and it is expected that the industry grows to $1.5 billion in 2018, with 70% of that entry coming from oil and gas companies.