Checking the vital statistics of an oil well calmly pumping away in the middle of a dusty nowhere is a time-consuming, tedious, expensive—and completely necessary—job. High-end wells can produce hundreds of gallons of oil per day, and failing equipment could result in significant bottom-line damage if the flaws aren’t promptly detected.
To fulfill the oil companies’ desire to keep an efficient eye on the daily lives of their equipment, Luna iMonitoring (www.lunaimonitoring.com) is developing technology intended to let customers remotely track critical measurements, such as pressure, tank levels and natural gas flows. The iMonitoring systems combine multiple components—including a solar cell, battery pack, computer processor, data radio and sensors—into compact, relatively low-cost packages that can be quickly and easily attached to pump equipment. These packages then transmit via a proprietary radio protocol to a concentration and communications unit that uploads the data via satellite to the oil company’s waiting computers for analysis.
The goal, says CEO Kenneth Ferris, is to “drive down the cost factor” of such monitoring equipment by a factor of four or five, allowing pump operators to make an economically feasible argument for putting the gear on less productive wells. Typical solutions available today tend to cost between $10,000 and $15,000, Ferris says. The iMonitoring tools currently being beta tested will cost in the $3,000 range, with a second generation available in two years that would cost about half that.
Ferris sees the technology moving beyond the energy industry. He notes that, if available cheaply enough, the tools could appeal to the wastewater and agriculture industries, as well as for general industrial automation. For instance, Luna has developed a vibration sensor that can detect when bearings in pumps, compressors or turbines start to fail.
Luna iMonitoring is still in the R&D stage, according to Ferris. But he expects products to ship in the fourth quarter of this year.