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Honeywell Accelerometers Point Energy Exploration in the Right Direction

Honeywell Accelerometers Point Energy Exploration in the Right Direction

Honeywell Accelerometers Point Energy Exploration in the Right Direction

A palm-sized sensor that guides aircraft and spacecraft also has a more down-to-earth application such as helping drilling and mining companies reach diverse oil fields and mineral resources around the world.

High-precision accelerometers provide critical acceleration data in all kinds of applications and under the most demanding operating conditions. Whether they’re integrated into the inertial navigation system of a jumbo jet cruising thousands of feet above the ocean or attached to a drill string searching for oil thousands of feet beneath the ocean floor, accelerometers measure changes in position and velocity over time.

How does an accelerometer work?

Quartz flexure, such as Q-Flex™ accelerometers work by using a proof mass, made of amorphous quartz, that can move or “flex” in the presence of acceleration.  The picture shows the flexure motion in the absence and presence of acceleration. However, the operation of a Q-Flex™ is a bit more complicated than a simple picture shows below. The Q-Flex™ is a closed-loop, force-rebalanced sensor.

The displacement of the proof mass is sensed by a capacitive plate.  An induced current in a set of magnetic field coils attached to the flexure is used to exert an equal but opposite force to restore the proof mass to the unflexed, balanced position. By measuring the current in the magnetic field coils, one can determine the amount of force needed to hold the flexure stationary.  This current is proportional to the input acceleration.

Accelerometers play a critical role in the measurement while drilling (MWD) process oil and gas companies use to create boreholes to explore and produce hydrocarbons. Data from accelerometers, in combination with either gyroscopes or magnetometers, is used to measure the inclination and azimuth of the hole being drilled in real time, which enables the drilling team to steer the well towards a target zone.

Rugged and reliable Honeywell Q-Flex™ Energy accelerometers were high-technology heroes in the all-out effort to stanch the flow of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after a tragic 2010 explosion on an offshore oil rig. After several failed attempts to contain the spill, oil company technicians used MWD techniques to drill two relief wells more than 13,000 feet below the sea floor, steered by Honeywell Energy accelerometers.  Our accelerometers enabled the well drillers to achieve extraordinary levels of precision, far beyond what is typically required of the MWD process, which enabled them to cap the well very near the reservoir and stem the flow of oil after 85 days.

We’re proud of how our products helped end one of the worst environmental disasters in world history and we’re equally proud of how Honeywell accelerometers help our upstream customers in the oil and gas industry meet the world’s energy demands by improving the efficiency of the exploration and production processes.

Honeywell has been developing and manufacturing accelerometers for aerospace applications for close to 50 years and we’ve produced more than 3 million units in just the last two decades. Honeywell engineers were among the first to recognize the potential to these amazing devices in other industries and we introduced our Energy accelerometers to the energy industry back in the 1990s.

Honeywell accelerometers have earned a hard-earned reputation for excellence and reliability in the energy industry, based on millions of hours of performance under the most demanding of conditions, including high temperatures and extreme shock and vibration.  

Our most rugged QAT 160, QAT 185 and Mini Q units are uniquely built for energy exploration and production applications. Customers choose the model based primarily on the intensity of the temperatures they expect to face during the drilling process. For example, the Mini Q accelerometer operates reliably at temperatures up to 200 degrees Centigrade, which is nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Honeywell accelerometers can take the heat and all the punishment the energy exploration and production processes can dish out. No wonder many of the world’s leading oil and gas services companies choose Honeywell accelerometers to help them meet their toughest drilling challenges.

Chris Milne

Chris joined Honeywell in 1998 and currently manages design and product development for quartz-based accelerometers within Honeywell’s Sensing, Guidance, and Control COE.

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