Petrobras Adopts LabVIEW to Improve Oil and Gas Exploration

Petrobras, one of Latin America's largest oil and gas companies, has selected National Instruments LabVIEW software and data acquisition hardware to develop a mud-gas separator for under balanced drilling (UBD) applications. Using NI tools, Petrobras engineers have developed a high-throughput UBD application capable of reducing the time it takes for a well to become fully productive as well as eliminating the need for costly fracturing after the well is completed.

"By deploying UBD technology based on LabVIEW, Petrobras has realized savings between $500,000 and $2 million, depending on the size of the well and the cost of the potential fracturing job," said Manoel Feliciano da Silva, equipment engineer at Petrobras. "This method, made more efficient through the use of NI products, gives Petrobras the ability to reach full production faster and with minimal impact on the formation."

UBD is a drilling technique that reduces the hydrostatic pressure of the drilling fluid, causing the pressure in the wellbore to be less than the formation pressure. As the well is being drilled, formation fluid flows into the wellbore and up to the surface. This approach provides significant financial and operational improvements over traditional drilling techniques. In traditional drilling, pressure often causes formation damage and results in a delay before the formation reaches full production or forces companies to perform fracturing jobs on the well. In addition to being more financially efficient, the new system is intrinsically safer and easier to use than traditional methods.

The mud-gas separator Petrobras developed delivers a compact separation system capable of handling the dynamic gas and liquid flow rates generated during drilling with compressible fluids, and it responds quickly to variations in the pressure or flow rates from injected or produced variations in the dynamic systems. LabVIEW provides connectivity to the drilling control programmable logic controller (PLC) and connectivity to remote systems. LabVIEW also delivers the flexibility to connect to existing PLCs; perform high-speed measurements; and provide the required server, client and playback modes.

The LabVIEW system exceeds Petrobras design requirements, providing real-time measurements and trending to equip operators with better data for decision making and improved safety along the drilling operations. The equipment for land operation was tested and approved during full-scale experiments and is currently being used on four oil wells drilled at the Estreito Field located in the Rio Grande do Norte state.

National Instruments is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype and deploy systems for measurement, automation and embedded applications. NI empowers customers with off-the-shelf software such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective hardware, and sells to a broad base of more than 25,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 10 percent of revenue. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 4,000 employees and direct operations in nearly 40 countries.