Differentiating technology that opens up new markets

Pietro Fiorentini is a leading designer and manufacturer of gas processing and metering systems for the oil and gas industry.

Looking to develop their oil/gas measurement systems for subsea deployment, Pietro Fiorentini needed specialised help in developing game-changing technologies for this new extremely hazardous environment. 

Optimised production

As part of their Multiphase Flow Metering systems, Pietro Fiorentini wanted to develop a fibre-optic based water cut sensor to measure water content in a hydrocarbon flow.

The challenge was not only to survive the subsea environment but to also provide unrivalled levels of accuracy and durability.

The innovative infrared optical spectrometer we developed allows measurement of the full range of fluid mixtures and flow rates demanded by the subsea market, unlike the limited range offered by other systems. 

Maintenance-free, 25-year service

The new subsea sensor system can withstand a water depth of 3,000 metres for more than 25 years maintenance free.

Delivering this level of performance and longevity required a new way of thinking, involving careful component selection and robust optomechanical design to meet rigorous international standards.

Company-wide benefit

We have also worked closely with Pietro Fiorentini on other aspects of their Multiphase Flow Metering system, identifying improvement opportunities and helping develop the knowledge of their R&D staff in the process.

As a result, Pietro Fiorentini’s in-house R&D team adopted some of our software engineering tools and processes to help them meet the ongoing demands of subsea technology development and support. 

Our involvement

We worked closely with Pietro Fiorentini throughout the project, from initial ideation through to manufacturing.

Having been given key performance and operational requirements, we homed in on the most promising concept. Using both theoretical modelling and experimental investigation in our optical laboratory, we were able to de-risk the chosen approach and understand the engineering requirements for different versions of the end product.

This gave Pietro Fiorentini confidence to conduct customer field trials, for which we provided on-site support, with trial units built using our in-house facilities.

We continue to optimise manufacture and provide continuous design improvement recommendations. 

The challenge

Maximising accuracy

Accurate measurement is key for the efficient operation of a modern oilfield, to extract the maximum amount of oil/gas using the minimum quantity of costly and potentially environmentally damaging inhibitor chemicals.

Using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis, we modelled through-pipe flow to assist development of a multi-channel, self-monitoring and fully redundant system that detects and rectifies component failures.

Our sophisticated algorithms compensate for interference from other features in the fluid by measuring their presence at different wavelengths, delivering highly accurate readings. 

Ensuring long-term reliability

Engineering equipment for subsea use is incredibly demanding and carries great risk. An equipment failure could result in loss of production worth millions of dollars a day and a repair mission potentially costing many millions more.

To ensure decades of maintenance-free service, we subjected the new sensor to extremes of impact and vibration, and used reliability engineering techniques employed in the telecoms industry. This approach ensured electromagnetic compatibility and thermal performance to API 17F and software design to API 17S. 

The team

Tales of the team

Interesting insights from the people who made it happen

“This was exactly the kind of challenge we relish – huge technical challenges but with the potential to transform our clients’ business in this sector with breakthrough performance.”

Frances Metcalfe, project reviewer

“A major challenge was developing high-performance spectroscopic and optical fibre-based sensors and systems capable of operating reliably for very long periods despite extremes of temperature, pressure and vibration.”

Bob Jones, optical design lead

“In many ways, this was the perfect project – a supportive client with an incredibly ambitious vision that taxed the minds of our very best engineers and scientists, who knew their efforts could bring step-change performance to the industry.”

Matt Hill, project manager

"Reliability is vital for equipment that will spend its life 3,000m underwater. At $10m+ per visit, servicing or replacement is not an option – it just needs to work… for 25 years!"

Martin Brock, technical authority

"We had tough specifications to meet, including 40g shock tests, ensuring 25+ years reliability and complying with stringent software quality standards for subsea instrumentation"

Will Dunn, electronics & software lead

We can help you achieve the impossible