Gravitec News

QinetiQ, Gravitec and Shell Technology Ventures to develop novel gravity sensor for oil and gas wells

Scorpius, a novel remote sensor that builds a 3-D picture of hydrocarbon reservoirs by measuring changes in gravity over time and distance is being developed by QinetiQ, Gravitec and Shell Technology Ventures.

QinetiQ has been awarded a £1.6m development contract by Gravitec Downhole Instruments Ltd (GDI Ltd), a joint venture formed by Gravitec Instruments Ltd and Shell Technology Ventures Fund 1 BV (managed by Kenda Capital BV) to fast-track the development of Gravitec's novel gravity gradiometer for use in borehole applications.

QinetiQ, an international defence and security technology company with significant experience in managing complex commercial engineering programmes, will lead the development, testing and packaging of a fully integrated sensor for use in the downhole petroleum environment.

Simon Fraser, Chief Executive of Gravitec Instruments said: “Gravitec is delighted to be working with STV and QinetiQ in taking this exciting technology forward. The strength and breadth of QinetiQ’s technical expertise and systems integration capability will be very important to the successful deployment of our downhole tool.”

The borehole environment is extremely challenging for remote gravity sensing as a result of the high temperatures and pressures involved and because changes in magnitude of the measured signal are extremely small requiring precise measurements. Gravitec's sensor is the only gravity gradiometer that has the potential to monitor hydrocarbon reservoirs in wells because it is both small enough and sensitive enough to produce in-hole data of commercial use. Scorpius is expected to produce density information that can help define the location of oil reserves and monitor depletion of producing reservoirs when it is expected to be ready for deployment in 2008.

The success of the gravity gradiometer in the oil and gas environment will provide the impetus for further development of the sensor for applications in mineral boreholes, static surface monitoring of oil reservoirs, airborne surveying, defence, and space deployment.

Jon Salkeld, Managing Director of QinetiQ's Optronics Division said: “The project presents an exciting opportunity for us to apply our broad range of disciplines and modelling capability to help a commercial partner make a difference in solving important problems for the oil and gas industries.”

Gravitec Joins the Australian Decadal Plan for Space Science

The National Committee for Space Science (NCSS) announces the development of the first Australian Decadal Plan for Space Science and invites interested people to participate in the development of the Decadal Plan. The Plan is for the period 2006-2015.

NCSS is the Committee of the Australian Academy of Science directed to foster the area of space science in Australia (meaning here all aspects of solar system science beyond the troposphere), to serve as an effective link between Australian scientists and overseas scientists in the same field, and to advise the Academy's Council on relevant matters. NCSS is of the opinion that it is in the best interests of Australia's space science community, associated industries, and Government to develop a first Australian Decadal Plan for Space Science.

Gravitec's senior research scientist, Dr Wayne McRae, has volunteered to join the NCSS Working Group to extend Gravitec's sensor work from terrestrial applications to space based research. Gravitec's magnetic and gravity sensor systems are uniquely suited to space applications because of their small size and lightweight design.

Applications include:

  • Measurement of magnetic remanence in the Moon
  • Mineral mapping of asteroids (space probe based), moons and planets (rover based)
  • Solar wind magnetic field measurements
  • Measurement of changes from uniformity of the Earth's magnetic and gravitational, and Moon’s gravitational field

Gravitec Comes to Australia

Gravitec Instruments Limited, located in Auckland since 1996, has recently set up a laboratory facility in Perth. Gravitec is a privately owned company specialising in the development of advanced gradiometer sensor technology. The new laboratory is based at the Centre for Gravitational Research at the University of Western Australia. Commercial and business development functions are now also located in the Perth office, with those functions also available at Gravitec’s UK location. The company is also continuing a parallel research programme partly funded by a Technology for Business Growth (TBG) government research grant from New Zealand

The main focus for the company is the design, development and deployment of two proprietary sensor systems, a magnetic gradiometer and a gravity gradiometer. The Gravitec sensors are comprised of a single sensing element (a string or ribbon) with a length dimension many times the width. The sensor can measure cross line gradients (i.e. Gzx and/or Gzy) while oriented vertically. The sensors are controlled by external electronics that provide control, measurement and modulation functions. The sensors, originally designed with airborne applications in mind, are versatile in that deflections of the sensor element can be measured by capacitive or optical measuring devices, depending on the requirements of any given application. Prototypes of both sensors have been built and are currently in the testing phase at the UWA laboratory.

Gravitec’s gradiometers have the ability to detect gradient signals with a single sensing element, as opposed to conventional gravitational gradiometry instruments based on multiple accelerometers. This capability allows for a high level of accuracy, sensitivity and measurement rate for field applications. The new gradiometers operate at room temperature, are highly immune to mechanical movements and can be deployed from a number of platforms. Gravitec expects the sensitivity threshold for the current gravity gradiometer to be 8 Eötvös per 1 second of measurement, with further enhancement planned. The magnetic gradiometer sensitivity level is currently less than 0.1 nT/m.

Gravitec sees the competitive advantage of its sensors as: very low unit cost and deployment cost, small size, and unique configuration allowing for its potential use in an aircraft stinger and as a borehole tool.

The technical project is led by Chief Scientist Alexei Veryaskin and Senior Research Scientist Wayne McRae. Howard Golden has recently joined the Gravitec Perth team as Chief Geophysicist and Commercial Director.