Last month, we attended the annual SPE Distributed Fiber-Optic Sensing workshop in Colorado, where industry experts gathered to discuss the practical and economic value of fibre-optic sensing technologies for well, reservoir and facilities management.

Despite the continued instability in the market, it was extremely positive to see a renewed focus on DAS technology at the event. DAS was the subject of over half of the discussions and received far more exposure than in previous years. Beyond this general interest in DAS, it was also very encouraging to see some fresh technical insights into DAS’ capabilities for ongoing production monitoring, long-term well integrity monitoring and even logistical issues. These examples are a clear demonstration that DAS and its ability to deliver real, measurable value to operators is becoming an increasingly important tool.

A particularly significant example related to the use of DAS-VSP for time-lapse reservoir monitoring, giving operators better visibility of the reservoir than traditional geophone devices. Strain sensing was another interesting example from a long-term well integrity perspective. With DSS in place, potentially working alongside DAS, operators can ensure that serious issues such as the casing buckling or surface subsidence caused by shrinkage can be avoided once all of the oil and water has been extracted from the reservoir.

There were also discussions on using distributed fibre optics to monitor the infrastructure and environment around an installation to help avoid issues induced by subsurface flow or excess surface water, such as permafrost thawing. By giving operators this additional environmental awareness, they have the insight they need to plan maintenance works as necessary and, crucially, mitigate against potential accidents.

Overall, it was clear from the event that there is a good appetite for fibre optic monitoring in the industry and the potential for it to add significant value not only already exists, but is estimated to be huge. However, DFOS technologies can only deliver true value if operators understand how to maximise their potential.

Therefore, the onus is now on technology companies to make sure the data that DAS delivers is condensed into simple, easily-digestible reports, so operators can make quick, informed decisions in real-time.  Although market conditions remain unstable, it is promising to see a fresh focus on innovative technologies and how they can help ease some of the challenges that the industry faces.