Success Story


The key to optimizing the recovery of oil from wells is straightforward: more data equals more oil. To achieve such optimization, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chevron ETC, and GE Measurement & Control have developed Safire, the world’s first cost-effective topside multiphase flow meter. The goal of Safire is simple: make the most from low-yielding wells.

A multiphase flow meter, Safire provides noninvasive, real-time, accurate estimates of oil production for every well. Safire achieves measurement rates as high as 100 readings per second (including computation time).

Safire is based on SFAI, or swept frequency acoustic interferometry. SFAI uses frequency-chirp signal propagation (wideband ultrasonic frequency) through a multiphase medium to extract frequency-dependent physical properties of said medium. SFAI then uses the propagation time and the attenuation of the chirp signal as a function of frequency to extract both fluid flow and multiphase fluid composition information.

Simple to use, Safire enables continuous measurements in fast-changing flow conditions in rod-pumped wells, as well as other wells. Safire’s ability to provide accurate, real-time volumetric measurements of oil flow from wells means better reservoir management, accelerated production, and huge cost savings by eliminating the need for environmentally unfriendly separation tanks.

Rather than sampling a few wells over a long period of time, Safire now makes it possible to provide real-time, accurate, and continuous measurements of volumetric oil flow from individual wells. This capability significantly speeds up the testing process, thus enabling better management of oil-well assets and improving recovery. Safire will enable faster detection and correction of well problems, thereby reducing well downtime and boosting oil production. The resultant reduction in cost—when all the various advantages are considered—will run into several billions of dollars. The bottom line is that Safire will enable more environmentally friendly oil-field development.

A few international application areas that Safire will impact in the years to come are helping meet the world’s oil demands, bolstering alternative energy resources, detecting defects in solids, determining fluid density and viscosity, and monitoring waste storage containers, such as those at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plan in Carlsbad, New Mexico. As the technology has matured, more applications are being identified.

With Safire, the energy industry now has a cost-effective device that is nonintrusive, simplifies oil production monitoring, and is environmentally friendly. Safire is the only instrument available today that can operate in the presence of gas, thereby eliminating the use of gas separators or tanks. Potentially eliminating thousands of separators and tanks will enable the energy industry to dramatically reduce the footprint of facilities that produce oil and gas. Such elimination will reduce fugitive hydrocarbon emissions and the potential for oil spills. As a result, the energy industry will be in a stronger position to access environmentally sensitive areas.