New multi-phase meters
enhance data reliability
Innovative design reduces manpower needs
Accurate measurement has perennially been one of the most acute long-term challenges to the upstream industry. Multi-phase metering was initially developed to meet these demands in
offshore and subsea wells by delivering the
measurement of multi-phase streams close to
the well in confined or inaccessible areas, so
that its operators and innovators could deliver
optimized production and better reservoir
This trend began almost 30 years ago. The
expectation was that multiphase metering
technology for oil, gas, and water flow would
evolve to be able to not only provide valuable data, but also to deliver cost savings.
Those cost savings would facilitate single
well tiebacks, shared use of existing platform
and pipeline facilities, and continuous online
monitoring for economically marginal wells.
However, over the years, the multi-phase
market has not fulfilled these ambitions. In
large part this is because it has prioritized expensive technology that embeds uncertainty
in flow rate measurement over accuracy and
repeatability in parameters that can be directly
measured. This inherently leads to complexity,
human intervention, and validation-hungry
Cumbersome and expensive test separators remain in operation attempting to fill
this knowledge gap; but they provide only
piecemeal or fragmented information that
rarely delivers more than limited value. So
while oil and gas companies seek the benefits
of access to data, for wellhead metering and in
the current oil price environment are hungry
to reduced costs, they’ve been consistently
unable to access lower cost reliable and reproducible information sets.
A CEO of a major oil company recently
said: “When I first started attending senior
management and board meetings, the data
on production was often unreliable or unavailable. Decades later, that has barely changed.
Until we have accurate, trustworthy data there
will be little progress towards more efficient
In the last 10 to 15 years, the oil market has
evolved considerably with maturing assets and
especially the now accepted lower for longer oil
price. So much so that many of the beliefs and
principles that guided decision making even
a decade ago are no longer as useful as they
once were. The operating models from those
years were for a long time the templates for
success, but now too many aspects of them add
cost, and stifle implementation of best practice.
Over recent years, low prices have forced
oil and gas companies to get serious about
rising production costs. These have included
project optimization, reducing facility size,
changing facility concept, cutting well count,
improving well design and well efficiencies.
Now the challenge is to sustainably preserve
those gains, and build upon the foundations
that have been laid. To do that will take fresh
thinking, and a re-examination of how we ap-
proach its development.
One of the biggest factors that will govern
the future price of oil is the extent to which the
standardized, manufacturing-like processes
that characterize tight oil production are implemented across the industr y. In the shale plays
in the USA’s Lower 48 states, best practices
have transposed swiftly between operators
and operations. These practices include pad
drilling, high-volume completions, and tighter
well spacing. All have made statistically visible differences to costs and how quickly and
successfully projects are brought to commercialization.
At the heart of this process has been the
use of reliable data to improve performance
through reproducibility and tight process
control. For offshore, with its longer lead
times and legacy infrastructure, the need for
data is driven by different factors. But it is just
as badly needed to deliver the marginal gains
that incrementally compound into significant
Capital discipline has led to an austere investment approach because of offshore’s higher capital intensity and slower payback. When
operating in a price-constrained environment
and looking for a competitive breakeven, the
first focus in achieving sustainable improvements is to upgrade your understanding of
your operations and your business’s assets.
To do this requires elemental knowledge of
your setup, and the ability to answer straight-for ward questions about your wells: When and
where did the water in my process come from?
New multi-phase meter design.
(Images courtesy M-Flow)
Non-intrusive pipe view.