Archimedean Screw Turbine Based Energy Harvester and Acoustic Communication in Well Site Applications

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Virginia Tech

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) has become increasingly important in the Oil and Gas industry. Despite the various advantages WSN has compared to the wired counter parts, it also faces some critical challenges in the oil fields; one of them is the power supply. The periodic replacement of batteries for the WSN in the downhole environments has been economically inconvenient and the enormous cost induced by the maintenance has turned people's attention to the energy harvesting technology, hoping for a more sustainable solution. Power supply is only half of the problem. To retrieve the data recorded by the various sensors in the downhole environments, a reliable way of wireless communication is required. A new approach utilizing acoustic communication was proposed. This thesis presents an Archimedean Screw Turbine (AST) based energy harvester that takes advantage of the abundant flow energy in the upper stream section of the oil production cycle, especially in the water injection wells and oil extraction wells, with the goal of providing power supply to Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) and underwater acoustic modems deployed in the various locations in the downhole environments. Parametric study on the number of blades, screw length, screw pitch, and rotational speed was conducted through CFD analysis using Ansys Fluent in order to determine the optimal geometry and operating conditions. The relationship between power generation and AST geometries, such as AST length and AST pitch, were discovered and the optimal rotational speed was revealed to be solely dependent on the screw pitch. Experiments were conducted in the lab environment with various flow rates and various external resistive loads to verify and determine the maximum power generation of the designed harvester. FEA analysis was conducted using the Acoustic and Structural Interaction Module of COMSOL MULTIPHYSICS to determine the attenuation characteristics of acoustic waves propagating in the water-filled pipes buried in soil. Experiments with and without the harvester integrated in the pipe system were conducted in lab environment using a pair of under water acoustic modems to determine the acoustic communication capability. The impact of the integrated harvester on the acoustic communication was tested. Combining energy harvesting technology and underwater acoustic communication together, this system can potentially achieve real-time monitoring and communication in the oil downhole environment.

Energy harvesting, Archimedean Screw Turbine, Acoustic Communication, Oil and Gas Industry