Success Story

Turning Production From an Art to a Science


As scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory were working to create a wireless communications technology that would enable our troops to communicate in combat zones, they had no idea that this would lead to additional benefits to national security by applying it to the oil and gas industry.

The ability to have broadband down-hole communication has been elusive in the oil and gas industry. Down-hole environments are not suited for current technologies. Temperatures, pressures, and mechanical issues limited data gathering for short periods of time, and often on an annual basis. Both wired and wireless communications have never been practical.

A general lack of understanding of the current down-hole environment makes production from a well more of an art than a science. Estimates from the industry suggest that as much as 50% of the reserves in a reservoir are never extracted; this is known as its “economic limit.” By obtaining accurate and current data from a well on the temperature, pressure and fluid levels, the art of production will quickly become the science of production.

INFICOMM is a groundbreaking, transformational wireless technology that is now in use in oil and gas wells. The technology, which incorporates innovative proprietary sensor technology, eliminates the need for down-hole power or batteries.

Current methods of communicating with down-hole sensors are limited, as they require relatively fragile wires or are very low bandwidth. The INFICOMM technology allows for high bandwidth from multiple sensors collected from different locations. It can be deployed for a low cost and is rugged enough to survive even the most aggressive down-hole environments.

This technology will allow for increases in oil and gas recovery efficiency and production rates, increasing energy security. In addition to increasing the production of these resources, the technology will also reduce the amount of energy required in production, while also reducing equivalent CO2 levels from this production energy.

For example, heavy oil reservoirs require steam to be injected into the reservoir to allow the heavy oil to become viscous enough to be pumped out of the reservoir. How much steam is needed and what the temperature of that steam needs to be has always been a part of the art of production. Often, these heavy oil reservoirs have hundreds to thousands of producing wells in them. By understanding the temperature and pressure at each well, the optimal amount of steam pressure and temperature can be injected into the field. With the introduction of this low-cost technology, the entire field will be modeled and managed as one integrated field rather than individual wells.

Los Alamos partnered with Chevron Energy Technology Corporation to develop this military technology for the oil and gas industry. Chevron has licensed the background intellectual property and sublicensed this technology to the startup company INFICOMM, Inc., to commercialize broadly in the oil and gas industry in both exploration and drilling, which has a market estimate of over $1 billion per year.