INFICOMM: wireless monitoring technology for oil and gas wells

Award Year 

Few issues have consistently captured national attention during the past year as energy security. Energy is the lifeblood of the world economy, and global energy demand continues to escalate. Ensuring that the United States has a reliable, aff ordable, and clean energy supply is critical to our national security. Th e transfer of INFICOMM (short for infi nite communication), a wireless technology used to collect real-time temperature and pressure information from sensors in oil and (more) gas wells, is helping to secure our energy future.INFICOMM has no fragile wires, is low cost, and can operate in high-temperature environments. INFICOMM is based on the concept of “modulated refl ectance,” requiring electrical power only above ground. Specialized crystals in the downhole sensors react to signals sent by INFICOMM by vibrating, or resonating. Th e signal frequency that “refl ects” wirelessly back up the hole, to be saved in a computer, is the crystal’s distinct “vibe” that varies with (and thus reveals) downhole temperature and pressure. The collected data improves well yields, saving producers millions of dollars per well. In addition, it enhances oil recovery eff orts that should increase domestic oil production and increase U.S. energy security.The technology was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as a battlefi eld communication capability for the Department of Defense. Chevron contacted LANL to see if this technology could solve problems faced by the oil industry. In 2004, LANL and Chevron entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement that developed the INFICOMM application and also fostered the formation of the Alliance for Advanced Energy Solutions.Former LANL technical staff members werehired by Chevron to set up a workshop in Santa Fe, N.M. Th ere, using the indispensable duct tape and silicon, they produced an INFICOMM prototype that worked better and longer than industry standards, and then refi ned the product.In 2009, Chevron spun off INFICOMM as a separate commercial company that officially became INFICOMM, Inc. in 2010.Th e fi rst INFICOMM-manufactured unit was used in the fall of 2011 in a well in Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley, Calif., operations; and is scheduled to be used this year in Chevron’s mid-continent and Alaska oil fi elds. Plans are being made for INFICOMM to be used in Texas and internationally, and sold to customers other than Chevron. (less)